This year many low-wage retail workers can be thankful that some employers are finally putting a fork in making them work on Thanksgiving. Store clerks will get to spend the day with loved ones, and retailers won't take a hit to their reputations for denying employees an American tradition.
Low-wage workers can also be thankful that the movement to raise their wages racked up some successes on Election Day. Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington crossed political lines to raise their minimum wages, striking a blow against income inequality.
Some moderate-income workers will have reason to celebrate as well when the new federal overtime rule goes into effect Dec. 1. Under it, many earning less than $47,476 a year will be eligible to be paid at time-and-a half rates for every hour worked over 40 in a week. The current threshold is $23,660, which is below the poverty line for families of four.
Voter frustration with income inequality and disgust with a system that has ignored economic hardships in part helped to elect Donald Trump president. Once sworn in, Trump could roll back some workers' gains. But he would be wise to heed their frustration as well as basic economics. When lower and moderately paid workers get a raise, they put that money back into the economy, which is good for everyone.
Economic realities also are behind some retailers giving up on being open during Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving sales don't add much to overall bottom lines. According to ShopperTrak, a retail analytics firm, Thanksgiving Day sales in 2015 were 12.5 percent lower than in 2014. And many who shop on Thanksgiving do not shop on Black Friday, making the holiday hours a wash.
"Based on our findings, it's clear that Thanksgiving Day openings may risk more in operating costs than in expanding sales opportunities. Not to mention, opening on Thanksgiving has serious implications on staff morale," said Brian Field, senior director of ShopperTrak advisory services. "This explains why certain retailers and malls, such as the Mall of America, are remaining closed on Thanksgiving."
Low shopper enthusiasm locally has prompted the owners of Philadelphia's Gallery II and the Moorestown and Plymouth Meeting malls to close their operations this Thanksgiving.