What do we lose, as families and as communities, by not having common days off? Is time for neighbor to meet neighbor, time for a family dinner with grandparents or friends important to us? Is it important for us to turn out to honor the veterans at parades, or to maintain a spirit of community by attending a townwide event?
Thanksgiving Day shopping is currently making news. While Rhode Island’s "Blue Laws" will prevent stores here from opening before midnight on Thursday, the Rhode Island Retailers Association plans to meet with the General Assembly to ask for the law to be changed. They would like Rhode Island to allow stores to be open Thanksgiving Day. I hope the General Assembly will reject their request.
One employee of a Target store that will be open on Thanksgiving Day has started an online petition at Change.org asking the store to remain closed for the holiday. Some may question the need for a petition. After all, if someone wants to work Thanksgiving Day, why not let them? I ask you to question: are they really working voluntarily? How many have assumed, as I did before re-entering the workforce, that employees working on Sundays were doing so voluntarily? They chose to work Sunday for the extra pay? How many assume those employees who will work Thanksgiving afternoon will be doing so voluntarily? I submit it is not always the case.
In my experience, employees who object to working Sundays are routinely scheduled anyway. RI Labor law 28-3-3 states that an employee cannot be penalized for refusing to work Sundays. However, we are also an “Employment at Will” state. An employee who attempts to exercise this right, if they are even aware of it, potentially puts their job in jeopardy. An employee at the State Department of Labor was kind enough to point that out when I inquired. An employer can simply decide to let them go without citing the desire not to work Sundays as the reason. If allowed to open Thanksgiving Day, it will be no different. In this economy, how many would be willing to take that risk?
A right that cannot be exercised without jeopardizing one’s employment is not really a right. Is it?
I contacted my state representative and senator about requiring stores to close on Sundays. The only one to call me back was concerned stores would loose revenue if R.I. stores were closed but Massachusetts or Connecticut stores were open. We hear so much about “family values” in our political discussions. And yet, valuing families seems to be tossed aside the minute it conflicts with making money.
We the consumer are part of the problem. The stores are open Sundays and holidays because we patronize them. Were it not profitable for them to be open, they would not be. Do we really need to shop on Sundays and holidays? Is our desire to shop worth coercing someone else to take time away from their family? Is it worth losing the sense of community we feel at parades or neighbor knowing neighbor and block party BBQs?
I think it is time to ponder the questions:
- What do we lose, as families and as communities, by not having common days off?
- What is important for maintaining family ties and community?
We hear the laments at each parade about how attendance has dropped. Is it because so few have the day off? Is it important for us to maintain the spirit of community present when we all turn out to honor the veterans at the parades on Veterans Day and Memorial Day? Is it important to us that families have time to travel and break bread together?
The next time you have the urge to shop on Sunday or a holiday, think about what we value for our families and communities. Think about what you are giving up, what the employees are missing, and what we are losing as a community.