We are coming up on that holiday during which we at least pay lip service to giving thanks for our blessings. One blessing I will express my undying gratitude is the opportunity to do work where I make a difference. I love my job.
Financially I could do better, but the intangible benefits are real and many. I legitimately think of my Working Families family as… well… family. The work we do makes a difference to so many who are left powerless in this world, or at least in our country.
Which is why I want to talk about a group of people who do not have so much to be grateful for. These people at least have the right to gripe, even this time of year, especially this time of year. I am referring to the low paid, overworked employees of the service and retail industries.
As we drive to our families’ homes on Thursday we will stop for gas in gas stations attended by people who do not get to spend the day with their families. Many of us will be watching football games, some of us may even attend them. The ticket counters, concessions, valet parking (for the VIP’s) and all the others who make the stadium work will not get to see their loved ones. After we have filled our bellies fit to burst and relaxed in front of the boob tube for a few hours, some of us will actually head out at midnight to shop.
This last bit bothers me on so many levels. How disturbingly consumerist have we become as a culture that we would actually go shopping at the close of the closest thing our country has to a multi-faith, high holy day dedicated to gratitude to fill our need to gather more than we actually need? How cold and calloused to these, our most vulnerable workers in this country, that we would ask them to work more hours at miserable wages, with little to no benefits, overnight, just to appease our need to buy?
This is why I am suggesting we do more than forgo shopping for forty-eight hours. It is why I am suggesting more than just a boycott of those companies that treat their workers the worst. For the first time in the company’s history, Wal-Mart is facing serious resistance from its workers. They are on the cusp of finally being able to organize. It is not uncommon for their employees to need to go on public assistance, even when working full-time. Their benefits are miserable, their rate of pay pathetic, and occasionally they are even bullied into working off the clock to “make up for” lost time to “help” the company out.
This year I suggest you kick it up a notch. Stop being so passive. There will be protests all around the country. Join one. Do a Google search for local labor groups, or economic justice organizations and ask them if they are planning one. Maybe you could just go to your local Wal-Mart see if there is anyone protesting and join them. At least bring them some hot cocoa and something to eat. Better yet, if there isn’t one at your local store, call everyone you can who you think might be sympathetic and organize a protest of your own. If you are curious about what you are allowed to do, look here.
So many of us do have a lot to be grateful for. Let’s show how truly grateful we are by sacrificing a little of our time, and maybe even a little comfort, to stand by those who have less.