The day after Thanksgiving has traditionally been the start of the holiday shopping season. But this year, many retailers plan to open their doors with special sales on Thanksgiving itself. One Democratic state lawmaker says mandating employees to work on that day is not right. And in an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles, State. Rep. Mike Foley explains why he's introducing a bill that would require employers to pay much more to workers who work during that time.
FOLEY: "It really bugs me. There’s already all of these pressures that we have around the holiday time for families and communities, and these pressures that consumerism puts on us kind of adds to the burden. And so I think that if any retailer is going to open up on Thursday now and on Friday -- you know from midnight until before their normal opening hours -- that they should pay more. That they should pay at least triple what they normally pay. If they are going to put the workers who have to deal with all the craziness, all the messes that take place when when thousands of shoppers come for their Black Friday sales, that the workers who have to put up with all of this stuff should be paid much more than what they're being paid on an hourly basis regularly."
INGLES: "Some retailers already pay people time-and-a-half. Is that not good enough?"
FOLEY: "Yeah, I’m assuming they do but I don’t think that’s good enough. I think that if retailers are going to try to encroach on what has traditionally been Thanksgiving as a day of families getting together and (giving thanks) for all of the things we are grateful for in our society and culture and democracy, then if retailers are going to force people to come in to work, then they should be paying much more than a time-and-a-half. My proposal is at least three times what they pay and maybe that’s not even enough. But if retailers are going to try to kind of exploit the consumerist culture that exists in Ohio and America, then I think that the people who have to take the burden and the brunt of it-- the workers -- should be paid a lot more than what they are."
INGLES: "Let me ask you this. We have a legislature that traditionally has not liked to jump into these kinds of things. They don't like to make these kind of mandates, are reluctant to force the raising of wages, saying it will cost jobs. You don’t expect this to really pass the legislature, do you?"
FOLEY: "Here’s what I know is that I’m a legislator from Cleveland, Ohio. And that I as a legislator, I have this opportunity and I think obligation to speak out on things that I think are wrong, or to help make things better. This kind of hit me pretty deeply yesterday as we were sitting around drinking coffee, reading the paper in the morning. And I said, 'Look, I’m a legislator. I should act and try to impact, in some degree, this kind of encroachment upon our civil society.' And that’s what I’m doing. Whether it passes or not, I’m a liberal Democrat in a very conservative Republican-leaning body. I know the score of how these things get racked up. But I also think there are other ways to influence how things happen, and speaking out on issues like this are part of my job."
INGLES: "And I assume we are not going to see you out shopping on Thanksgiving Day or in those Black Friday crowds on Black Friday, huh?"
FOLEY: (chuckles) "You're not going to, no."
Foley says he hopes to introduce his legislation soon.