Major retailers are being forced to choose between valuing employees’ holiday time and cashing in on the Black Friday early shopping trend. The employee backlash is now in full swing, with Target finding itself at odds with one worker protesting a long shift on Thanksgiving Day—and with his 55,000 like-minded supporters.
Anthony Hardwick, a Target parking attendant in Omaha, Neb., has gathered more than 55,107 signatures as of Nov. 14 on an online protest petition he started on Change.org. Hardwick launched the petition after learning that he and his co-workers would be required to start at 11 p.m. Nov. 24 for a 10-hour shift. Hardwick calls for Target to stick to its original opening time of 5 a.m. on Black Friday.
Target is coming under increasing pressure to change its Thanksgiving Day policy, thanks to attention from major media outlets like the New York Times and Bloomberg giving attention to Hardwick's story. Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for Target, told Bloomberg, “Target cares about the well-being of our team members throughout the year. Our store leaders work closely with team members to accommodate their personal scheduling needs, as we do every year.”
At a Business for Social Responsibility conference on Nov. 4, Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn said, "We were going to be open at a much more civilized hour, like 3 or 4 a.m." But after Target, Macy's, Kohl's and other major retailers announced they'd open at midnight, Best Buy reversed course and decided it needed to be "where our customers are," Dunn said, according to the Pioneer Press. Best Buy is now opening at midnight on Thanksgiving night.
There is a PR opportunity here for one of these big retailers to scuttle plans to open before Black Friday and make a strong statement that their employees matter as much as their customers. But we won't hold our breath.