Retail Workers Face Erratic Scheduling, Anxiety, Poor Pay Over Holiday Shopping Season

Thanksgiving and Black Friday marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season for retailers across the US, as more than 165 million people in the US are expected to shop between Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, according to a National Retail Federation survey. The organization projects 2019 holiday sales to grow around 4 percent compared to 2018, citing current consumer spending and economic growth trends. 

For over 4 million workers in retail and thousands of temporary seasonal workers, the Black Friday sales that begin in many stores on Thanksgiving Day worsen erratic scheduling in the industry and come with anxiety, long hours, and low pay in exchange for missing time spent with family over the holiday. 

“It’s a two pronged experience for workers. On one hand, they’re not getting all the hours they want during the rest of the year and this is a time to catch up and make up those hours, but never knowing how many they’re going to get scheduled and what their schedules are going to look like,” said Janna Shadduck Hernandez, the project director for the UCLA Labor Center, which has published extensive research on retail workers as Los Angeles City Council and other municipalities around the US are currently considering or have already passed fair work week laws that mandate employers give workers predictable work schedules. 

“Black Friday brings up all these issues,” added Shadduck Hernandez. “Retail workers are anticipating it with mixed emotions, angst, and hopefulness there is going to be a bigger paycheck at the same time with facing a lot of frantic, stressful experiences.”

23 year old Courtney Hines worked at Target for about eighteen months in St. Louis, Missouri area until she quit this past week over scheduling issues with the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Hines, currently studying to become an esthetician, had asked her availability to be limited to 25 hours per week, but was scheduled for 34 hours this week, which included a Wednesday over night shift from 6pm to 2:30am, despite never working an overnight shift before. 

“I talked to my store director and told her it would be too much for me to be getting up for school on Wednesday at 5 am, going to school all day, coming into work, and leaving at 2:30am. I would be up for almost 24 hours. I told her I didn't feel comfortable working for that long and I thought it would be dangerous if I am too tired to drive myself home,” Hines said. “I felt pushed to quit because if I hadn't shown up for the overnight shift I may have been fired anyway. “

She was also scheduled to work Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the following day. 

Another Target employee, who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, volunteered to work a ten hour shift on Thanksgiving Day in hopes they would be given Black Friday off to be with their family. Instead, she is scheduled to return to work on Black Friday at 10am. 

“For Black Friday, before we open any time after midnight, then you get an extra dollar raise, but as soon as we open that goes away,” the worker said. “Also, you can’t request off between November 14th to January 5th, which isn’t fair. I’ve requested for a night off here and there and they laughed in my face.” 

Black Friday Protests

Workers and the AFSCME Union are holding protests today at 45 Guess Jeans retail locations in solidarity with the 70 workers who were abruptly laid off by the Guess Jeans Founders’ Marciano Art Foundation immediately after announcing a union organizing drive.

United For Respect is also holding protests at H&M stores around the US in solidarity with an H&M employee who was fired in retaliation for advocating in favor of Fair Work Week legislation.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/nov/29/black-friday-protests-working-conditions-labor-issues

Amazon Worker Sent Back to Work After Concussion

Earlier this month, Austin Swartz, a dock employee at Amazon warehouse CMH1 in Etna, Ohio for two years, fell back and hit his head on the job.

Amcare, Amazon’s on-site medical clinic, bandaged his head and sent him back to work. His head continued bleeding through the bandages and a friend took him back to Amcare to ensure an ambulance was called to take him to the hospital.

“A buddy of mine from the dock took me back and wouldn't leave amcare until they made sure I went to the ER, because my head was still bleeding and I felt like I was gonna pass out,” Swartz told me.

He was later diagnosed at the hospital with a concussion, still has headaches and shoulder pain from the injury.

“Now I have to fight with Amazon and workers comp because no one has filed the paperwork I turned into hr after the ER trip,” added Swartz.

He broke his foot on the job about a year ago and had similar issues with Amazon’s workers compensation system, and didn’t resolve the issues and receive compensation until almost two months after returning to work.

Amazon has a record of denying/dragging out workers compensation claims and providing adequate medical care to injured workers.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jul/30/accidents-at-amazon-workers-left-to-suffer-after-warehouse-injuries

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/02/revealed-amazon-employees-suffer-after-workplace-injuries

Like other workers hurt on the job at Amazon, Swartz is left without any income while trying to navigate, push for workers compensation he’s entitled to as he waits on the medical bills and other bills to start piling up.

This is the same warehouse where I previously reported Amazon workers were unattended to after suffering heart attacks on the job, while bystanders/workers were ushered back to work

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/oct/17/amazon-warehouse-worker-deaths

Labor Round-Up: October 2019

  • The Chicago teachers strike continues into its second week, as negotiations have yet to result in an agreement with both sides. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who campaigned on the promise that a teacher strike would not occur during her administration, has referred to adequately funding Chicago Public Schools as a “bail out.” Teachers are fighting to end the austerity that has underfunded and undermined Chicago’s Public School system. CPS and Mayor Lightfoot are refusing to address rampant understaffing, exorbitant classroom sizes, and replacing the prep time taken away from teachers by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

    A tentative deal has been reached with SEIU Local 73 members, which represents school support staff workers https://abc7chicago.com/education/city-reaches-deal-seiu-talks-resume-with-ctu;-classes-canceled-monday/5652739/

  • Teachers in Dedham, MA defied an injunction filed by the state to prevent a strike. The strike resulted in a tentative deal.

    https://www.nbcboston.com/news/local/Dedham-Teachers-Strike-Tentative-Deal-563947881.html

  • Teachers in Park County, Colorado ended a 10-day strike last week as the union agreed to re-enter federal mediation

    https://kdvr.com/2019/10/23/park-county-school-district-re-2-teacher-strike-ends-after-10-days/

  • Over five months after around 1700 coal miners were abruptly laid off, left unpaid, and had their last paychecks bounce, leaving many with unpaid bills, bounced check fees, and late bill fees, some workers are reporting they are finally starting to receive paychecks this week.

    Some workers are reporting issues with cashing the new checks, that they were shorted hours in the paychecks, that banks are still holding onto the checks for several days to ensure they don’t bounce again, and workers are yet to be paid any severance or repayment for fees they incurred as a result of the unpaid paychecks.

    Updates are available on the public Facebook group made by unpaid miners and their family members. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1779166075561864/

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jul/22/blackjewel-mines-shut-down-layoffs-future

  • Amazon workers at a warehouse in Etna, Ohio blew the whistle on two worker deaths this year where the workers were left without receiving medical attention for 20 minutes in once case and 3-5 minutes in another case. Both workers passed away due to cardiac arrest, while their colleagues were pushed to continue working through the incident.

    Billy Foister’s brother told me Amazon paid Foister’s wife $7,000 for the funeral expenses if she signed a NDA to not discuss what happened.

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/oct/17/amazon-warehouse-worker-deaths

  • Sanitation workers are Republic Services continue their strike which began on August 29, 2019. The workers have set up picket lines across the US, with the latest in Indiana.

    https://959watd.com/blog/2019/10/marshfield-republic-services-responds-to-strike-extension/

    Bill Gates owns about 34 percent of shares in Republic Services, the second largest sanitation company in the US. Workers are calling for wage increases to fix pay discrepancies among workers, and improvements to retirement pensions and healthcare

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/oct/16/republic-services-strike-bill-gates-sanitation

Amtrak's Elimination of Dining Car Service is Union Busting

Amtrak recently announced they are getting rid of dining cars on their overnight service routes, touting the change as their efforts to “continue to evolve the travel experience.”

In reality, the change is union busting that has been gradually enacted through steady cuts over the past few years.

“We’re looking at 1700 jobs that could be done away with, the complete onboard service. Our onboard service people, our cooks, attendants, LSAs like maitre d’s on dining cars, and waiters, who are also first line responders during emergencies, trained in first aid and cpr,” John Feltz, the railroad division director of the Transport Workers Union of America, told me in an interview.

Instead, Amtrak is replacing union workers with contracted workers who are paid a little over minimum wage, with no emergency training, while passengers are going to be offered pre-boxed meals either serve cold or microwaved.

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