Attention Kmart Shoppers, Rebellion on Aisle Three

by Emily Pantoja, Editor-in-Chief

Every year, it seems that retailers are opening their doors earlier and earlier for eager Black Friday shoppers braving the crowds. The day after Thanksgiving is a tradition for many people hoping to get the best deals on toys, TVs, and electronics. But for employees who work at these retailers, it means time away from their families to work on the biggest shopping day of the year. Normally, the employees who have to work and police the enormous crowds do not garner much attention, but lately, retailers have been under fire for their approach to this turkey day tradition.

Some retailers have been facing negative press and backlash for the unreasonable hours and working conditions their employees must endure on Black Friday. Kmart, for example, is planning on staying open for 41 hours during the holiday beginning at 6:00am Thanksgiving morning. This prompted major backlash from customers, employees, and the general public. People have been threatening to boycott the retail giant in protest. After the release of their 41 hours plan, Kmart’s Facebook page was basted and slathered with comments describing them as “greedy,” “morally bankrupt,” and “heartless.” Kmart responded saying that it would try to use seasonal employees and volunteers as much as possible to staff the stores and meet the customer appetites. Unfortunately, for many employees, they have no choice but to work on Black Friday or lose their jobs.

There is a glimmer of hope, however, for employees who have to work on Black Friday and it comes from The National Labor Relations Board. Earlier this month on November 17, 2013, the Board found that WalMart violated the National Labor Relations Act when it threatened employees with termination and other forms of retaliation if they engaged in strikes organized by OUR WalMart on Black Friday in 2012. The Board also found that the company engaged in unlawful surveillance and unlawfully disciplined and terminated employees in anticipation of the strikes. The Board is authorized to issue a formal charge but is hoping the parties can reach an agreement. If they cannot, the Board will proceed and will issue a complaint against WalMart.

Several retailers have chosen not to open their doors at all this Thanksgiving, giving their employees the time they deserve to spend with their families. Nordstrom, Costco, and BJ’s Wholesale announced that they will remain closed on Thanksgiving, and stated that they want their employees to do just that: to spend time with their families and enjoy a day off.

The Black Friday shopping tradition does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. But the one thing we can hope for is that employees will still be treated with the dignity and protections they are afforded under the law. The NLRB finding is certainly a step in the right direction, and hopefully more employees will be able to assert their rights and stand up against these retail giants.