"Save Thanksgiving", proclaimed the bold headline of a full-page advertisement in yesterday's Newsday. Curious to find out what we were being urged to save Thanksgiving from, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that P.C. Richard & Son, the computer and appliance retailer, had taken out the ad to call for employers to give their workers the day off on Thanksgiving.
The copy reads "It is our opinion that retailers who choose to open on Thanksgiving Day or Night show no respect to their employees and families, and are in total disrespect of family values in the United States of America.
Unlike say, Ben & Jerry's on the Left, or Chik-Fil-A on the Right, P.C. Richard & Son is not a company that is associated with taking political stands. In a retail world increasingly dominated by corporate megaliths like Apple, the "family owned & operated" tagline gives the store an antiquated, innocuous feel. It brings to mind the imagined America of "Leave It To Beaver", a mom-and-pop shop that happened to have a bit of good luck.
And yet with their Newsday ad, they've come out swinging hard against the big box stores that are taking workers away from their families in preparation for "Black Friday." Through the ad, the store is throwing their corporate weight behind the message of labor groups across the country, including a significant portion of Walmart workers who will be on strike during the holiday.
My hope is that this starts a conversation on Long Island, one which has been bubbling under the surface for the past few holiday seasons, as stores make increasing demands on their workers. As our communities still attempt to recover from the recession, workers have little bargaining power in determining conditions at their jobs. With the continued high unemployment levels, big box retailers have little trouble finding replacement workers, forcing individual workers to continue to bend to the requests of their managers.
The struggle to give Thanksgiving and other holidays back to workers and their families has a unique opportunity to succeed, by building a public awareness around the issue. When we're sitting with our friends and families, we should reflect on whether we truly need to rush to a Walmart at 5am on Friday morning to get a deal on a new DVD player. It's these crowds that drive the demand for workers to be brought in the night before, taking them away from one of a handful of holidays that Americans can collectively enjoy.
We should all follow the lead of labor activists and now P.C. Richard & Son in making sure that some holidays stay holidays. Americans work more hours annually than nearly any other developed country in the world; isn't it only fair that all of us be able to sit down together to relax for at least one day a year?