Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson

Reporter

Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment. PGP public key.

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People who work in America's big-box stores don't have much to be thankful for, so maybe it's for the best that many of them can no longer celebrate Thanksgiving.

At Walmart, Target, and numerous other large retailers, Black Friday has become Black Thursday—a day that's much darker because it puts corporate profits ahead of, well, pretty much everything else that our country is supposed to care about.

This sad trend began last year at (where else?) Walmart, which announced that it would begin offering Black Friday specials at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. Not to be outdone this year, Target announced a 9 p.m. Thanksgiving opening. But Walmart responded by pushing up the start of this year's Black Thursday to 8 p.m.

You don't have to be a marketing expert to see where our labor standards are going: retro. Like pre-1621 retro.

Thanksgiving is "one of the three days us retail workers get off a year: a day most of us spend with family we only get to see on that day," says Renee C, the author of a widely circulated petition to get Target to say no to "Thanksgiving Creep."

Target spokesperson Molly Snyder defended the company's decision to open on the holiday. "Target's opening time was carefully evaluated with our guests, team, and the business in mind," she told me in an email. "Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest of the year, and we appreciete our Target team's flexibility on this weekend and throughout the holiday season."

Of course, many big-box workers have no choice to but to be flexible. The compliant get rewarded with more hours; the rigid quickly get downgraded to part-timers, union leaders say. Take the example of Greg Fletcher, a member of the overnight crew at a Walmart in East LA. On the night before Thanksgiving he will work a 12-hour shift, from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. His wife, who also works at the store, must be there from 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving day until midnight. "For families like the Fletchers, there really won't be a Thanksgiving this year," said Dawn Le, a spokeswoman for Making Change at Walmart, a campaign working to unionize this and other Walmart stores. Yet Greg feels like he can't say no. Normally, Walmart only gives him about 30 hours of work a week.

The thankless jobs aren't just at Target and Walmart: Sears, Toys R Us, Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Kmart all will stay open on Thanksgiving too.

Broadly speaking, Thanksgiving Creep represents another example of "speedup"—or employers demanding more from their workers without offering them much of anything in return. In a sluggish economy, this is how they gin up profits.

"Just because there are millions of unemployed people does not mean that people who do have jobs should be denied a holiday off to spend with their families," said a poster on Reddit who drew attention to Thanksgiving Creep yesterday. "It may sound naive, but I think treating each other well is a much better ethos for our society than 'suck it up and be miserable.'"

From the Seattle Times:

King and Pierce County prosecutors are dismissing more than 220 misdemeanor marijuana cases in response to Tuesday's vote to decriminalize small amounts of pot.

In King County, 175 cases are being dismissed involving people 21 and older and possession of one ounce or less. I-502 makes one ounce of marijuana legal on Dec. 6, but King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg decided to apply I-502 retroactively.

"Although the effective date of I-502 is not until December 6, there is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month," Satterberg said in a statement.

Keep in mind that these are just 2 of the state's 40 counties, and the decisions only apply to cases currently winding their way through the court system. Over the past 25 years, according to a recent study, Washington has convicted more than 241,000 people of misdemeanor pot posession, at a cost of $300 million in police and court time. That money will now go towards regulating the sale of legal weed, which, by the way, is expected to bring the state some $2 billion in tax revenues over the next five years.

This is the partial abolition of the war on drugs. Any questions?

Going viral today almost as fast as a good pepper spray video is the latest idea from Occupy Wall Street: the Rolling Jubilee, a project to buy up and zero out people's debts. David "How To Sharpen Pencils" Rees explains:

Now OWS is launching the ROLLING JUBILEE, a program that has been in development for months. OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you're a debt broker, once you own someone's debt you can do whatever you want with it—traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We're playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)

Over at Slate, Matthew Yglesias offers limited praise:

That said, almost all charitable undertakings are organized around some gimmick or other that serves as a focal point and helps get people interested. If the pecularity of the distressed debt situation and the concept of a jubilee happens to inspire people and motivate them to be more generous with their time and money than would otherwise be the case, this is a perfectly good idea.

But ultimately, the Rolling Jubilee could do much more than inspire charity. Spending $500 to cancel $14,000 in debt is an amazing bang for the buck—or, seen differently, an amazing illustration of how the financial system that we all bailed out now enslaves many of us. Even if the Rolling Jubilee becomes wildly successful, it probably won't cancel out more than a tiny fraction of our trillions worth of personal debts. Its value is as a devastating political statement: Debt is cheap, except when it's owned by the banks.

Watch...

Tue Nov. 3, 2015 2:13 PM EST
Fri Aug. 14, 2015 3:01 PM EDT
Thu May. 21, 2015 4:46 PM EDT
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Tue Dec. 16, 2014 7:00 AM EST
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