Justice for Retail Workers this Holiday Season!

Retail worker Moriah Larkins advocates for Fair Work Week

This year, many partook in Black Friday shopping sprees, mobbing stores with the hope of purchasing high-tech gifts at low prices. They stampeded through Wal Marts, malls and department stores, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Too often, little regard is given to the retail workers who stock the goods, ring customers up, and are forced to hear the verbal abuse of consumers while barely make enough to survive.

Nearly 16 million people work in the retail industry in America, an industry that seems to be in decline, which has lost more than 100,000 jobs. Online retailing has gained in popularity, and Wall Street has called in massive debts from the retail industry. However, the retail industry is one of the leading employers of workers; one in ten people work in retail, and more stores opened than closed in 2017.

Meanwhile, upward mobility for retail workers is nearly impossible, and many do not make enough in a forty-hour workweek to survive. Many retail employees are part time. Only 8% of retail workers have full-time jobs, with health insurance, at least $15 an hour wage, and paid time off. One in three workers has not received a raise in two years, and only 18% of part time workers move into managerial roles.

Additionally, there are no formal schedules, so work hours and times are constantly fluctuating, with part time work ranging from 13-29 hour per week. Those employees lucky enough to move up in the chains only did so because they dedicated their lives to the impossibly fluctuating schedule, citing “open availability” as one of the main factors that led them to promotions.

Organizers have been fighting back against these precarious positions. The Fight for $15 has dedicated to policy and legislation that raises state and ultimately federal minimum wages to $15 an hour, lifting many part time workers out of poverty. There have also been victories in the fight for paid vacations, paid sick leave, and the right to a stable workweek.

Fair Work Week Laws would allow employees to know their schedules two weeks in advance, and require overtime pay for hours worked with less than 10 hours of rest between shift. It also gives employees the right to request a flexible work schedule. Fair flexibility means employees would have a say in the times that they would be working, not what employers define a “flexible”, meaning ready to work 24/7 and at a moment’s notice.

So, this holiday season, while some are mobbing stores and treating retail employees poorly, remember how hard those employees work, and though they might be fighting and winning fair pay and a fair workweek, they still have a long way to go to be paid equally and fairly for the work that they have to complete.


(Photo Credit: Annie Sciacca / East Bay Times)