This year, concern for the amount of people who will be working on Thanksgiving is more prevalent than ever. With the retail hours of Black Friday creeping into Thanksgiving day, we’re beginning to panic about what this means for the future of turkey day.
It’s all over the media. Shaming businesses that remain open on Thanksgiving. Glorifying those that close. We’ve even seen people petitioning so that their loved ones can be exempt from work that day without losing their jobs. The news makes working on holidays feel like a looming, national issue.
The way in which we celebrate this holiday is clearly evolving in our society, but is working on Thanksgiving really such a horrible thing for an individual?
Like many college students, junior Vanessa Serrato will be working in retail this Thursday. She works at Sports Authority in the Valley River Center, which is set to open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and remain open overnight until 10 p.m. on Black Friday.
“Ultimately, I’m happy that I have a job,” said Serrato. “But it does dampen the possibilities for Thanksgiving plans.”
As a student in a school that’s far away from her family, it makes more sense to Serrato to stay in Eugene and work anyways. She’s also found new ways to celebrate Thanksgiving around her work schedule.
“Last year, I went home with a friend for Thanksgiving and then worked until midnight,” said Serrato.
Though a lot of media attention is placed on retail workers during the holidays, we often forget about other professions that have been required to work on holidays for many years. These include public service workers like police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other medical professionals.
For example, Sergeant Dale Dawson and Officer Lars Hoernlein of the Eugene Police Department have worked on countless holidays during their careers.
“You get used to it. My family’s used to it. It’s the sacrifice you have to make,” said Sergeant Dawson.
While several retail and customer service positions get paid time-and-a-half for working on Thanksgiving, Officer Hoernlein said that the Police Department does “give us additional days off for all of the holidays that we do end up working, but no extra pay.”
Sergeant Dawson and Officer Hoernlein expressed that missing holidays and family events can be rough at times, but they always find ways to work around it. Sergeant Dawson said that his family often makes plans and, “If I can make it, I make it. If we all go over to friends’ house for thanksgiving, they’re all comfortable enough with who I am and what I do.”
The idea of working on Thanksgiving may seem untraditional, but it’s the norm for several professions.
Justin Gotchall, a recent graduate from the University of Oregon, will be working on Thanksgiving for the first time this year. Gotchall, who works as social support for Nike Consumer Services, says he’s “not thrilled about it, but I think that’s the way we let jobs take over our lives in the U.S.”
Working on Thanksgiving this year will mean pushing back his family’s schedule, but they plan to celebrate a bit later this year after he gets off work. “It’ll be more like a normal dinner than Thanksgiving when you usually spend the whole day with your family,” said Gotchall.
Sure, these local employees are having to make compromises to their Thanksgiving schedules. But they are overall accepting of this reality and can still enjoy getting together with their families.
More than anything, many workers are willing to give up part of their holiday to keep the job that they want. Each of these individuals expressed being nonetheless thankful for their job. And isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about?
Follow Lindsay McWilliams on Twitter @lindsaymacwill