Each November families around the country sit down on Thanksgiving Day to eat turkey and some fixings enjoying the day expressing thanks and gratitude. Before the end of the last day of what seems to be unofficially the end of fall, many people are also scouting the newspaper to check out the advertisements so they can plan ahead for the next day. Black Friday has become retailers biggest shopping day of the year when they hope to make enough revenue from the many sales to get into “the black” for the next season. In other words, the hope to earn more than they spend each year, and despite the miraculous good deals being offered in the many ads, make no mistake, the stores are still making money. Ever since the inception of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in 1924, the day after the holiday has been designated as the start of the Christmas season. While many people were off from work on Thanksgiving and the Friday after the holiday, those folks employed in retail reported to work the next day as this Friday was the first day to leave fall behind and take a four-day weekend to do some holiday shopping. The term “Black Friday” was actually coined in the 1960’s to refer to the day that retailers would move from the red into the black. Prior to the computer age, accountants kept hand ledgers for the books. All losses were kept in the color red while revenue was listed in the color black hence moving from the red to the black the Friday after Thanksgiving.
In the retail industry, Walmarts has become the giant of all superstores where people can buy groceries, household items, clothing, shoes, toys, electronics, any many other items for low prices. At some super centers, there are even care care centers where one can get new tires installed and an oil change all while they buy the week’s groceries. Quick service, lots of parking and cheap prices, what more could the every day person want? What about the Walmart worker? Are they looking for fair wages and benefits? Current and former Walmart workers think that is exactly what Walmart workers are looking for and seek to help their counterparts at stores across the nation to obtain better working conditions and better pay. In support of Walmart employees, they created the Organization United for Respect at Walmarts to protest for health insurance coverage at more affordable rates, pay rate increases and routine employee work schedules. The organization specifically chose the busiest day of the shopping season as a day to hold strikes and protests at over 1,000 stores across the country. Two local Walmarts were scheduled to hold protests and/or demonstrations. The store in Swatara Township had a peace vigil scheduled on Thanksgiving Day at 6pm while the store in Carlisle had their protest scheduled for 9am on Black Friday. According reports in the Patriot News, both the holiday peace vigil and next day protest were sparcely attended; however, there were a significant number of attendees, they were simply shopping instead of protesting.
Interestingly enough, had the turnout of current and former Walmart protesters been larger, there might have been different reports in the news. Black Friday is notorious not only for the big sales but also because of the fights between shoppers that break out at various stores each year. In Black Fridays in years past, shoppers fought over Cabbage Patch Dolls, Furbys, Tickle Me Elmo dolls and other fad toys to the extent that fists were flung, guns were slung, people went to the hospital and the police made arrests. This year is no exception with shoppers at at Walmart caught on camera fighting over phones. Fueled in part by retailers who in advance report to only have a set number of these must-have items and shoppers who look more like rabid dogs then human beings turn vicious in their attempts to be the person who obtains the must-have items to stuff under the tree, it can literally be dangerous to go shopping on Black Friday. In preparation of the shopping rush and possibly seeking to avoid the usual after holiday shopping rush and stamede of shoppers, Walmarts and many other stores either stayed open 24/7 or opened up early on Thanksgiving Day. Protests or no protests, Walmart did not not suffer financially. In fact, the store reports 2012 to be their biggest sale year ever.
Naturally, with the focus being the shoppers’ consumption of goods and the retailers goal to make as much revenue as they could, there is little to no attention paid to the protesters or the couple of folks holding the peace vigil. After all, if there is no Walmarts, where are shoppers supposed to go to buy everything under one roof for really cheap? While the Walmart workers organization does not specifically address the fall out from the Walmart take-over such as the mass closings of mom and pop shops and other small businesses across the nation which continue to drop in number as chain super stores like Walmart continue to set up new shops limiting shoppers choices, what they seek is fairness and equality in the workplace. Whether or not one agrees or disagrees with their position, the protesters are covered under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution to exercise three very important rights: freedom of speech, right to petition and freedom of assembly. In other words, the Government cannot limit their rights to hold signs, to speak to passersby, to lobby for legislation, to join together in a group to protest and to petition Congress to pass laws that are in their favor. In giving thanks yesterday, one of the things to be grateful for is the First Amendment. Freedom of speech gives store owners the right to sell clothing that may be deemed offensive and also allows shoppers the ability to buy these same items. Ultimately, places such as public malls are under the control of the property owners who can in some ways limit freedom of speech such as requiring that customers comply with the no shirt, no shoes, no service policy. Without the First Amendment guaranteeing the right to petition and freedom of assembly, people would not be able to meet and discuss in groups to share their ideas and points of view. Without these freedoms, political parties would not be allowed to exist and just about any group who want to meet and talk could be restricted even the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts should the government seek to restrict their right to peacefully assemble. In fact, even with the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion, churches and other houses of worship could face restrictions on their ability to meet in groups. Fortunately, our founding fathers in their experience and wisdom guarantee that as Americans we have the right to speak out minds and to meet in groups to protest whether it is against the government or against stores such as Walmarts.