Using Our Dollars as Voting Ballots

by Mark Ortiz | December 22, 2014 10:46 am

While the country ramps up for another festive holiday season, people who work in retail jobs across the nation tend to cringe at the approaching days. The holidays can be a mixed bag for retail workers. For those who are allowed to make commission, the holiday season presents one of the few windows for a salesperson to make an equitable check. With the increased demand for material goods, finding customers to spend money is no longer a problem.

But for the many people who work in retail in this country who don’t receive commission from their sales or do not have say in their schedules, the holidays can quickly lose their cheer. Most holiday positions are temporary positions with sporadic hours. At Macy’s where I work, certain seasonal hires were expected to show up for a six-hour shift on Thanksgiving Day from 6p.m. to midnight, find a ride home after their shift was over, and be back at the store by 10AM the next day for Black Friday.

These types of hours are what most retail companies are looking for when they ask interviewees if they are “flexible.” Anyone beginning their retail career during the holiday season is expected to work these hours, no questions asked. With Macy’s staying open 72 hours before Christmas, it will be the people hired on a seasonal basis covering the overnight shifts. In addition to long holiday hours, people not protected by union contracts can expect short, irregular shifts after the holidays are over.

This type of scheduling is becoming not only the retail industry norm, but also our nation’s status quo. When we choose to shop at these ridiculous hours, we are telling corporations that we support these types of practices. As a country, we have chosen consumption over family values. I’ve learned not to expect much from corporations, who are in the business of making a profit no matter what the cost to the people who keep their shelves stocked and floors swept. But as consumers, we also get a say in the treatment of retail store employees. The stores are opening earlier because we have chosen to line up on Thanksgiving Day in anticipation for sales that don’t save you much at all.

Corporations use Black Friday to dictate when and where consumers will shop, and these consumers line up to accept the crumbs that fall from the table in the forms of sweaters, TVs and cameras. We continue to spend money with those that don’t care about our well-being as people or employees.

We must begin to view our dollars as voting ballots. Each time we spend money, we must understand that the dollars spent shape the world we live in. It’s time for us to get together and pool our economic power if we want our message to be heard. Everyday Americans will ultimately decide the working conditions they deserve, but until then, hurry up and eat your turkey because it’s time to get back to work.

Image via David Porter-


Mark Ortiz

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