Black Friday Protests Signal Problems With Corporate America's Values

This Black Friday took on a whole new meaning as store workers protested working holiday hours during the annual shopping extravaganza.

Employees at Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy started petitions earlier this week in objection to new 12 a.m. opening hours that many stores have adopted over previous 4 a.m. openings. Employees argue that the earlier they have to go into work, the less they see of their families. Employees who miss the majority of their holiday to feed American consumerism seems unfair. Unfortunately, other than gaining media attention and thousands of signatures, their protest was unsuccessful and their requests to push back opening times were ignored. Target’s human resources director commented on the protests, claiming “workers should understand it's a matter of staying competitive.” 

If big businesses like Wal-Mart and Target continue to ignore workers requests in favor of increasing profit, it will only serve to create a bigger rift between the corporate businesses and the worker. Corporate America tends to focus on short-term profits, often at expense of their employees, which signifies their displaced values.

There is no arguing that it is important to make money and run a successful business, especially in this economy, but workers should be given the option of working on holidays. Many choose to work holiday hours, but for those who don’t there shouldn’t be consequences.  Not surprisingly, workers feel ignored, manipulated, and dispensable. But rather than accepting unfair treatment, they have become vocal, aided by social media. 

"With movements like Occupy Wall Street, I think a lot of people are getting tired of wealthier people taking advantage of the middle class and poorer people," John Stankus, a stocker at Target commented. Workers don’t like being treated like pawns in a game, and when asked to miss Thanksgiving with their families they don’t view it as staying competitive, they view at as a missed opportunity with loved ones.

Big business will have to realize that workers are less likely to remain quiet if treated unfairly, and the more they mistreat their workers the bigger the rift between business and worker becomes.

In addition, these big retailers seem to be indifferent to the true spirit of the holidays. Being out of touch with celebrations that emphasize togetherness and gratitude, and tend to be family oriented, makes businesses seem uncaring. "It's their greed and their wanting to take advantage of us — because they're not missing their Thanksgiving dinner…" Stankus claims.

The only solution to this brand of inequity is communication and compromise, but if profit is put before people and worker’s appeals are not addressed, than the gap between employer and employee grows wider, and the true meaning of the holidays could be lost as greed and profitability pervade.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons