Ebeneezer Scrooge knew how a greedy capitalist deals with workers during the holiday season: Consider yourself cheated when they take a day off with pay to celebrate with their families.
But the old miser is bit too soft for many of today’s corporate titans. A day off with pay? Bah, humbug! Across America, workers are faced with no paid holidays at all or “encouraged” to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some get paid extra, some don’t. Unless you have a union contract or work for the federal government, Thanksgiving and Christmas may just be another day on the job.
While Scrooge was forced to bow to Victorian norms and give his employees Christmas Day off with pay, American law does not require such generosity. In fact, the U.S. is a world leader in least generous holiday arrangements.
American misers don’t stop there: From paying starvation wages to abandoning victims of factory disasters, there is no action too heartless for some of our best-known companies.
Here are some of the brands offering “season’s beatings” to hard-working people.
Several stores on this list will be open on Thanksgiving, but Kmart has outdone them all by announcing it will be open 41 hours straight, starting at the obscene hour of 6am on Thanksgiving Day.
According to Kmart spokeswoman Shanelle Armstrong, the company is doing workers a favor, informing the Huffington Post that "We staff with teams & seasonal associates when possible, giving them the opportunity to make extra money during holiday."
Many customers obviously can’t appreciate such generosity, leaving irate messages on Kmart’s Facebook page like these:
“Hey Kmart! Because of you being Open on Thanksgiving and totally disrespecting your employees, Our Family will never spend a $ in your store!”
"I refuse to shop at a store that makes employees work on Thanksgiving so you can earn a buck this store among others takes the fun out of shopping on black Friday.”
Around the country, Kmart’s full-time employees report being pressured to work over holidays, despite the company’s claim of using seasonal and temp workers.
McDonald’s, never one to shy away from screwing employees, recently found itself caught up in a blizzard of negative PR for putting its business principles into writing in the form of a list of holiday budget tips for its workers, whose pay averages $8 per hour. (This just months after a stunningly McStupid employee budget guide that allowed zero dollars for heat and $20 for healthcare.)
The company has some money advice that would make Scrooge giddy. Facing debt? Try returning some of your presents and selling off possessions on eBay. Need to make a purchase? Go to a thrift shop instead of the mall. Feeling depressed? “Try to avoid using shopping as a pick-me-up or as a way to relieve boredom.”
McDonald’s concluded with a cheery holiday message for workers who live below the poverty line: “Financial security is something we all dream of. You can make this dream a reality with a little hard work and a lot of dedication.”
Thanks, McDonald's. Could we at least have fries with that?
With an Ayn Rand-worshipping libertarian at the helm (financier Eddie Lampert), it’s no wonder Sears has become the poster child of worker misery (Sears Holdings also now owns Kmart). When he took over Sears in January 2013, Lampert rolled up his sleeves, turning the company into a giant Randian experiment where workers were pitted against each other until the venerable retailer descended into a chaos of screaming matches and infighting.
A year after the horrific factory fire in Bangladesh, Sears, which sold clothing made there, is giving victims the cold shoulder, declining to participate in a global effort to get compensation to injured workers and the families of survivors. According to the New York Times, some European retailers, like the Anglo-Irish Primark, have embraced their moral obligation and are working hard on the effort, but Sears is unmoved by the idea of burned and paralyzed victims, or families trying to survive without a breadwinner. Happy holidays.
Walmart, boasting a profit of $15.7 billion last year, has distinguished itself by paying crap wages to its 2.2 million employees . In fact, the majority of its workers with children live below the poverty line.
This year, the company is actually holding food drives so that its own poorly paid employees can donate food to each other for the holidays.
Walmart is really a standout when it comes to caring about workers — for example, not giving a hoot if people die while making its products. The company recently showed what anti-sweatshop activist Samantha Maher calls “an astonishing lack of responsibility” to the victims of the Bangladesh factory fire where a large portion of its clothing was being made. Like Sears, it will not participate in relief efforts for victims.
Walmart has announced it will open its stores at 6pm on Thanksgiving, and according to chief marketing officer Duncan MacNaughton, employees are “really excited to work that day.” Gee, work or get fired? Or end up with so few hours that you can’t eat that week? What an exciting choice!
What MacNaughton does not say is that many Walmart workers would like to work full-time, but are forced to work part-time so the company can avoid offering benefits. They are also forced to deal with erratic schedules that drive them into poverty, making them unable to take second jobs or arrange childcare.
Josh Eidelson reports that Walmart can expect protests and demonstrations across the country during Black Friday, including strikes.
Apple was planning on increasing the number of stores open on Thanksgiving this year, but CEO Tim Cook made a big show of expressing his goodwill by insisting that only some of his employees should be miserable for the holidays: those working in stores on the Las Vegas Strip, Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach and New York’s Fifth Avenue.
Cook’s largesse is duly noted.
But so is the fact that Apple’s employees are pretty miserable to begin with. According to Glassdoor.com—sort of like Yelp for America’s workforce where employees leave reviews of their experience on the job—working for Apple is no picnic. In terms of satisfaction, Apple ranks #34, far behind tech companies like Facebook (#1), Google (#6) and Linked-In (#14). It also ranks below Shell Oil US (#18), Mastercard (#29) and Bain & Company (#4). Apple employees complain of long hours, difficulty in balancing life and work, and — surprise! — “retail hours involving holiday hours.”
Apple’s per-employee revenue is an off-the-freaking charts $2.13 million, yet the average salary of an Apple store “Genius” is $38,937, which, in locations like New York, is barely subsistence level. Apple is sitting on a tremendous amount of cash right now, but is it going to increase the pay and benefits of the workers who make its success possible? Or maybe invest in the development of new products? Perish the thought! No, it appears Apple is likely to do a massive stock buyback (read: stock manipulation) and enrich executives to the tune of $150 billion (if Carl Ichan has his way). Stock buybacks are a noxious form of redistribution of profits away from workers and an innovation-killer, and should be banned.
Let’s not forget that Apple is facing a class-action suit for conspiring with other tech firms to screw over employees with do-not-hire arrangements. Or that Apple iPhone workers in China work in virtual slavery. Or that Tim Cook sent an incredibly creepy video to employees warning them to read up on “business conduct” guidelines. Et cetera.
For the first time in its 155-year history, Macy’s will be open on Thanksgiving. This is especially ironic given that the iconic store has practically made its name synonymous with the holiday through its nine-decades-running festival of ginormous balloons, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year, many Macy's workers will not be able to enjoy the parade, because they will be inside bound to cash registers.
Macy's employees have reported an obnoxious score scorecard system that the company uses to judge and control them. They also complain of low wages, dirty conditions, and poor training — which is no suprise given reports of " Shop and Frisk" incidents involving people of color getting harassed in the store.
Last year, we noted that Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren was spending his time lobbying to gut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Lundgren is part of a notorious group of greedy CEOs called “Fix the Debt” which strives to further distress hard-working people by running ad campaigns, purchasing members of Congress, etc. so that he and his fellow Scrooges can enjoy tax breaks by shredding the social safety net.
According to Forbes, Lundgren took home over $10 million last year.
And there you have it — a corporate climate in America which would make Scrooge himself shudder.