Working the Holidays
By Patti Hermes – Partent to Parent
There’s been some controversy lately about certain stores opening on Thanksgiving, thereby forcing yet another class of workers to work the holiday. Sure we’d like the holiday season to be about more than consumerism, but that’s just not reality these days. The main culprit this year, yet again, is Walmart, but there are a host of other grocery/discount stores that are joining in on the chase for in-store shoppers. In many areas of the country, this type of store is relatively new. Once upon a time, you had to leave the grocery store to go shop for clothing and other home goods at the discount or department store. Nowadays, your local Walmart has everything and is open all the time, 24 hours a day. Other stores like Target have to find ways to compete, and expanding holiday shopping hours is the most obvious choice. Unfortunately, it’s the employees caught in the middle.
Why the outcry for the poor retail employees, when so many other occupations have been working holidays forever? There are plenty of reasons, but the recent media attention toward minimum-wage workers certainly helps. Add to that the growing phenomenon of family bread-winners having to settle for these same minimum-wage jobs since their jobs have all but disappeared from the landscape. So many of these employees are barely making ends meet, and their employers are asking for volunteers to work extra hours, how many do you think are going to stay home with their families and possibly give up a day’s wages?
Compare them to your local police and firefighters, hospital and nursing home employees, and other 24-hour occupations. Most of them go into their chosen occupation knowing full well that nights, weekends and holidays have to be covered by somebody, and everybody has to take a turn. Most of them also underwent special testing and training just to get the job in the first place. For most of them, working the holiday means extra pay, and their families work out their holiday traditions over years of holiday work schedules. And for some of them, there’s always the option of taking paid vacation time during the holidays. I was raised this way, and so are my children, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to head out shopping while other families are serving dessert. That’s my choice, and you are free to make your own choice in the matter.
The holiday season is stressful enough without all the screaming about how everybody else is partaking of their own celebrations. Whether you have to work, choose to work, run to the store for some extra whipped crÃ¨me for dessert, or head out to get a jump on all the sales, or just plain stay home and have another piece of pie, it’s all a choice. Nobody’s business but your own. And while you’re out, please remember to smile at whoever is helping you, tip the pizza delivery person, and say Thank You. Simple gifts that spread good cheer for the season.