TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

Walmart Isn’t Forcing Anyone To Work on Thanksgiving

Joe Hansen, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, spoke out yesterday against Walmart, arguing that the retail chain, by opening on Thanksgiving evening, is forcing its employees to give up their holiday. Hansen, writing for Huffington Post, said:

As the six members of the billionaire Walton Family—heirs to the Walmart superchain—prepare to sit down to a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner with their families, the holiday will be very different for the 1.4 million Walmart associates who work for them. For the second year, Walmart is planning to put profits before its workers by beginning its Black Friday sales at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and forcing its workers—many of whom are part-time—to abandon quality time with their own families during a cherished American holiday.

Mary Pat Tifft, a Walmart associate, made a similar statement in a petition she started, saying “while I love my job, I cannot silently watch while my fellow Associates are forced to be away from their families on Thanksgiving.”

Although some Walmart employees may be reluctant to work on Thanksgiving night, Hansen and Tifft misrepresent the facts by saying that Walmart is forcing its employees to work during the holiday. Walmart’s employees know full well when they are hired by a retail chain that the job will require retail hours—including the possibility of working on holidays. More importantly, however, Walmart did not force them to take the job and does not force them to keep it. If employees value working at Walmart, they can work under Walmart’s terms—if not, they are free to leave.

Walmart’s critics are mistaken (or dishonest) to accuse the company of coercion. There is no force to be found here. It is entirely proper for Walmart to serve its customers by opening on Thanksgiving night, which, for many, is a very convenient time to shop. In providing this value, Walmart seeks voluntary employees whom it pays for their time.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Individual Rights and Law

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • Anonymous

    Just consider the miracle of Walmart: You can walk into a Walmart Supercenter on the morning of Thanksgiving, find it stuffed with food despite the extra heavy shopping earlier that week, and you can buy everything you need for the standard holiday feast, including wine and fresh flowers. Oh, and you’ll probably save money compared to what you would have to pay for the same products in other chain supermarkets.

    These anticapitalist scolds don’t appreciate what Walmart has really done for the standard of living in this country.

  • Rob

    convenience doesn’t equal high standard of living . . .

  • David Blankenau

    Actually, it DOES contribute to a higher standard of living, in that the savings in time and money it creates can be used for other productive activities which would not otherwise occur. Many people fail to take that into account when they rail against Walmart and other productive enterprises.

  • Rob

    You’re saying it contributes because it saves us time? Do you think microwaves contribute to higher standard of living? And what productive activities? Like watching more TV?

    You’re reciting their brand tag line “save money, live better”—just bolstering it with more vocabulary—to actually talk about this issue? If you take everything corporations present to us at face value you’d be perpetually duped.

    While I’m not in support of a simplistic argument saying ‘Walmart forces people to be away from their families on Thanksgiving’, but it’s just as simplistic to say the opposite. Ppl want to hold on to their jobs. They know when it would be pushing it to request off. In the end, there’s an overwhelming pressure to work, which in the end benefits Walmart because they can stay open and provide convenience to the country (while making money). So it seems your argument is to reframe this external pressure as a personal problem/choice, and just pretend Walmart would be totally okay if every employee with a family requested off the same day.

  • Jacob Zeise

    It’s extremely surprising to me that you, Rob, a man in a first-world country typing something on the internet, would reject the fact that convenience improves standard of living. I’d go farther and say that it’s one of the primary drivers of living standard. Just look at Wikipedia’s entry for the washing machine. The machine, combined with indoor plumbing (also a convenience), saved the people who washed clothing their entire work day. That’s a damn miracle.

    “Making” people work on thanksgiving is a different issue. As someone who worked yesterday, I’ll say that this whole issue is ridiculous. Walmart employees should be happy they have an opportunity to work for the money they spend on their families. Families who care will structure their gatherings around the schedules of those who have to work. This is only making news because it has become popular to disparage Walmart for its status as a capitalist icon.

  • Francesca Ford

    You’re being far too kind. Convenience does not just “contribute” to a higher standard of living, convenience is the primary basis of one’s standard of living! Convenience is practically the sole factor in determining our general physical well being. The easier any one thing is to obtain, the more time and energy I can focus on doing the things that make my life better and raise my standard of living. How convenient food is, medical care, housing, various materials are, and above all, how convenient their pricing is, which is determined by their abundance in the marketplace, is all very convenient! Point out anything beneficial to your life and standard of living and I can show you how it depends upon the convenience of you being able to obtain it. What a nonsensical thing to say that it doesn’t equal a higher standard of living. They necessarily go hand in hand.

  • Anonymous

    My dad works for wal-mart, and he is being forced to work for thanksgiving. As far as being hired, when most of those people were hired, they were told that the store would be closed on certain days. So that argument is a cop out.