Whole Foods Employees Strike Against Working on Thanksgiving

Flyer for Whole Foods strike (courtesy: WOCC/Facebook)If you are missing an ingredient for your Thanksgiving meal, you can just dash out to the grocery store at the last minute, right? While more and more retailers are opening their doors to shoppers on Thursday, hoping that the convenience of an extra shopping day and first dibs on Black Friday sales will boost revenues, many retail workers are, understandably, against the idea.

In Chicago, a group of Whole Foods employees held a strike on Wednesday to protest some of the stores' decision to open on the holiday and bring attention to the what they say are hardships faced by people who are scheduled to work. "They feel like they should have the right to be with their families on Thanksgiving," Deivid Rojas, communications director for the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, a union of retail and fast food workers, tells Yahoo Shine. "And they are concerned with the general trend of retailers being open on the holiday."

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The employees chose Wednesday to strike and stage a public protest because it's one of the biggest grocery shopping days of the year and will cause the most disruption. "The marketing at the store is all about being with your family on Thanksgiving," striker Trish Kahle tells Yahoo Shine. "But we still have to work. We think having the day off is important for all families, not just customers' families." About two dozen employees from two locations, including Whole Foods' Chicago flagship in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, are protesting the store's opening on Thanksgiving, though some Whole Foods locations have been open on the holiday in previous years.

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A spokesperson for Whole Foods told Yahoo Shine by email that remaining open on Thanksgiving is not general policy and the decision to remain open is made on a store-by-store basis by management and staff. "Our Chicagoland stores decided to open for part of the day, and those who choose to work will get time-and-a-half pay," she added. "We’ve heard from many team members in the Midwest region and nationwide that the chance to be part of the excitement during this very busy time of year while earning higher wages is a welcome opportunity. We actually have more team members volunteering to work on Thanksgiving Day than we have spaces to fill." Kahle, however,  believes that employees should be compensated with holiday pay on Wednesday as well, especially given the crush of shoppers.

Although their ranks are relatively small, the Whole Foods employees are joining a growing number of workers who are upset with retailers such as Target, Walmart, and Sears for expanding their hours around the holidays. This year, Walmart bumped its opening hours up from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night to capture the frenzy of Black Friday deal shoppers.

Long lines of customers clamoring for bargains may be legendary, but a recent poll by the Huffington Post indicates that the majority of Americans don't actually want the freedom to shop on the holiday. In fact, only 13 percent said they preferred stores to be open on Thursday, and there are many online petitions are asking stores to keep their doors shut. Patricia Stumpff, an Ohio mom who is petitioning Target, explains that her daughter has had to work the Black Friday sales, with her shift starting at 4 p.m. on Thursday for a number of years, disrupting their family's gathering. "I believe that the Thanksgiving holiday was instituted for us to take some time out of our often too busy lives to recognize, celebrate and be thankful for all the good things we have in this country," she wrote on the petition's page, adding, "I hope that others will join with me to help ensure that 'holidays' remain holidays for everyone and not just a select few." So far, she has received over 100,000 signatures.

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