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Joe Hansen

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Stand With Workers This Thanksgiving

Posted: 11/23/11 09:17 AM ET

When one retail worker speaks out and takes public action against unfair scheduling practices, it's a media story. When his coworkers stand with him and speak with one voice, they've got a union, and that's the best way to make real change.

Anthony Hardwick, a retail worker at a North Omaha Target store, has drawn headlines by petitioning his employer to return to traditional opening hours on Black Friday instead of pushing up the opening to Thanksgiving Day. Across the country, thousands of retail workers at stores like Target and Walmart are facing a Black Friday work schedule that leaves them with no time to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner with their families.

Scheduling issues are consistently a top concern for retail workers. Many workers want more hours and a consistent, full-time schedule they can count on to support their families. But there's a double-edged sword for workers who put in long hours and forego family time over the holiday weekend: instead of seeing a reward for their hard work and loyalty in their paychecks, many will see their hours cut back in the days following the holiday so retailers can avoid paying overtime.

Even though their on-the-job conditions are often overlooked, retail workers are the backbone of our service economy. Millions of Americans work these jobs, and retail is one of the only sectors of our economy that is growing. Retail jobs are going to define how it is to live and work in America the way that manufacturing jobs once did. It is vital that retail jobs are secure, full-time jobs that pay the bills and allow people to live a middle class life.

That's why it matters for all of us when Anthony Hardwick has no voice to make holiday scheduling work for his family or demand fair compensation for working on a holiday. Americans know the way Anthony and his co-workers are being treated is unfair and wrong; over 175,000 people have signed a petition in support of Anthony. But for real change, Anthony's concerns over scheduling and holiday pay need to be heard by his managers. The best way that retail workers can have a say over holiday scheduling is by sticking together in a union and negotiating for those changes directly from their employer.

The UFCW and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Council of the UFCW represent workers at grocery stores, but also at stores like Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Modell's and H&M. Union retail workers earn premium pay for work on holidays. Their union contract guides fair scheduling. In these stores, many workers choose to take holiday shifts that might pay time-and-a-half or double-time union wages; as opposed to workers at stores like Target or Walmart who often work holiday shifts out of fear of losing their jobs and may not earn premium pay for these grueling shifts.

We all make compromises with our time over the busy holiday season. Sometimes it is traveling to see the in-laws. Other times it is working long hours over Thanksgiving weekend so that we can provide a magical Christmas morning for our children. When retail workers are given a voice in holiday scheduling, they can respect the needs of their families; whether that need is a loved one's presence at home or the need to earn additional income over the holidays.

Respect for the retail workers who are the heart of events like Black Friday means fair compensation for holiday hours and a voice in scheduling. When we support workers coming together to make positive changes in the workplace, we all win.

Click here to sign the petition to stand with Walmart employees and other retail workers who are sticking together to have a say over their schedules during the holidays.