Thanksgiving Day shopping called 'assault' on family life

2011 Black Friday Marks Start Of Holiday Shopping Season Credit Spencer Platt Getty Images News Getty Images CNA US Catholic News 11 21 12 Shoppers wait to enter a Best Buy store on Nov. 25, 2011 in Naples, Fla. Although controversial, many big retail stores decided to open on Thanksgiving Day or at midnight. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The expansion of Thanksgiving weekend shopping to the holiday itself has raised concerns among both workers and clergy who worry that the change puts family time at risk.

Father Sinclair Oubre, Spiritual Moderator of the Texas-based Catholic Labor Network, said the store openings are a "disturbing trend" that is "an assault on the family."

"We have almost completed the evolutionary process of having two classes of workers: those who get holidays off, and can stay with their families, and those who are forced to work, so that those who have holidays off won't have to stay with their families," Fr. Oubre said.

Retailers such as Sears, Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Toys "R" Us and Gap are increasingly opening their stores on Thanksgiving Day. The following day, known as Black Friday, is one of the most profitable shopping days of the year.

Business analysts cite increased competition from internet shopping and some customers' desires to shop on Thanksgiving as motives to open stores on what is traditionally a day off, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In 2011, retailers who opened on Thanksgiving Day earned 22 percent more over the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Two popular internet petitions on the website are protesting the changes.

Casey St. Clair, a Target employee of six years from Corona, Calif., organized one petition to "save Thanksgiving" that now has over 370,000 signatures.

She said Thanksgiving Day off "really does give me that one day to relax and visit family I otherwise have no time to see."

Introducing more business hours on the evening of Thanksgiving Day means that employees need to arrive hours before the store opens, she explained.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York criticized the new phenomenon of Thanksgiving Day shopping in a Nov. 20 essay in the New York Post.

"The stores, we hear, will open on Thanksgiving. Isn't that a sign of progress and liberation?" he asked. "Sorry, but no - it's a sign of a further descent into a highly privatized, impersonal, keep-people-at-a-distance culture, one that values having stuff and doing things over just being with people whom we love, cherish and appreciate."

The cardinal said he will pray this Thanksgiving that God preserve "a culture where personal friendship, genuine conversation and family unity can be a high priority."

"I'll beg God to keep those values constant in our society," he said. "Why? Because I'm fearful they're disappearing."

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