Eating Thanksgiving Dinner in a 30-minute Meal Break at Kmart Is…

To tag off Ester’s post about whether eating Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant is “cheating,” it’s time for the annual reminder that a lot of people don’t even get that option, and it feels like it gets worse every year.

Today, from ThinkProgress:

Kmart will open its doors at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day this year and remain open for 42 hours, meaning that many employees will have to come to work to staff shifts. While the company says it tries to fill the slots with volunteers or seasonal hires, workers are reporting that the reality on the ground is very different.

The “reality on the ground,” of course, is that workers at many Kmarts are forbidden from asking for time off — or, in fact, from calling in sick — over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“I am a lead at a Kmart and it is mandatory for me to work on Thanksgiving,” another employee said. “If I were to call out I would be terminated, and requesting off is not allowed.”

It’s not just leads, either; ThinkProgress states that Jillian Fisher, who started a petition to ask Kmart to close early on Thanksgiving, identified workers from Kmarts in over 13 states who had been told they could not take the holiday off, as well as human resources departments that had told workers that if they did not come in on Thanksgiving, they would be fired.

And here’s the kicker: many Kmart workers don’t know yet when their holiday shifts will be.

And most workers have no idea whether they’re going to be asked to give up some of their Thanksgiving dinner to come to work, even with the holiday a week away. Forty-three percent of the surveyed employees said they still don’t know their schedules for Thanksgiving or Black Friday. Fisher says that her mother has sometimes found out her schedule as little as a day ahead of time.
They may be in for a rude surprise: of those who know their schedules, all but two have to work on Thanksgiving, while about three-quarters also have to come in the next day.

When I picture this scenario in my mind, I picture an enormous family gathered in a warm kitchen when one person gets a call on her cell phone and says “okay, guess I’m going in to Kmart tomorrow.”

But I suspect it’s equally likely that the person who will know his or her schedule a day ahead of time is a single parent, or a person who might be responsible for child care on a day when schools are out, or someone who can’t leave his or her kids in the bosom of the enormous Central Casting Thanksgiving gathering-style family.

That’s why we’ve got 24-hour daycares that know they need to be open on Thanksgiving specifically for this scenario.

And that is something to be thankful for.

Photo credit: Nicholas Eckhart