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Black Friday Eve

posted: 11.30.12 by Donna Winchell

Nordstrom’s department store has for the seventh year done its part to keep consumerism from consuming Thanksgiving. In mid-November they posted on their Facebook page and in their stores copies of a sign reading, “From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving. We won’t be decking our halls until Friday, November 23. Why? We just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time. Our stores will be closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving festivities. On Friday, our doors will open to ring in the new season in style.” As Thanksgiving approached, over 23,000 people “liked” the idea.

At the other extreme are stores who are pushing Black Friday back into Thanksgiving Day. This year, Target moved the mad rush of hunting for bargains back to 9 pm on Thanksgiving, while Walmart moved it to 8 PM, causing protests from both shoppers and workers who feel that employees should not be denied the opportunity to celebrate with their families. Behind the headline, though, there is much more to the Walmart protest than the very reasonable desire of the workers to be at home with their families on Thanksgiving. A union-backed group called OUR Walmart organized protests at many Walmart stores on Black Friday because it is the year’s busiest shopping day and because they wanted to bring attention to what they claim are Walmart’s illegal labor practices. According to the New York Times, however, there is even more to the situation than that. Steven Greenhouse and Stephanie Clifford write, “The food and commercial workers union has made Wal-Mart a target because the company has helped put many unionized supermarkets out of business and helped push down wages at many competitors.”

So, what really is at stake for whom? That depends on one’s needs and desires. Arguments for or against a walkout or protest will be effective or not depending on how well they appeal to the observer’s needs and values. As for the question of opening time, many feel that opening stores on Thanksgiving detracts from a beloved holiday and its traditions. Just as many feel the meaning of Christmas is lost under a load of commercialism, so too they feel that “skipping Thanksgiving” to get a better deal on a computer or a television reveals a slow decline in our nation’s values. Seen as a protest against unfair labor practices, the resistance by workers takes on another level of meaning and values. Seen as a means of “getting back” at Walmart for forcing smaller, unionized stores out of business, still another. The support garnered for an argument on the issue depends, as usual, on the extent to which the arguer and his or her audience share the same values.


[photo: Shoppers by Benson Kua, on Flickr]

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