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.