In Defense of Working on Holidays

A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 27 2013 9:20 AM

In Defense of Working on Holidays

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Jobs! Or misery!

Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

My former colleagues at ThinkProgress have together this handy shopping guide to tell you which stores will be open on Thanksgiving. Except, their point is to condemn the stores for "dragging millions of workers away from family and friends."

Thanksgiving2

With all due respect, I think the politicization of this issue is worth an eye roll or seven. I remember when Christmas Day in D.C. when I was sitting around the house alone watching basketball because I'm Jewish, and I decided to take a halftime trip to the Safeway. The store wasn't very busy and I was bored and curious, so I asked the (African-American and presumably not Jewish) woman working the register if it was a bummer to have to work on Christmas. She said, basically, no, that it was a great opportunity to pick up an extra shift and earn overtime pay. That seemed like a very sensible answer.

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On the other hand, the security guard on duty in my building that day told me that it absolutely was a drag to be working on Christmas, overtime pay be damned. That also seemed like a very sensible answer.

Which is just to say that in a diverse nation with more than 300 million citizens, opinions are going to vary on the pros and cons of extended business hours. How strapped for cash are you? Where does your family live? What's your relationship with them like? How sentimental are you about specific holiday rituals? People will differ. This Thanksgiving there are going to be people with jobs at the Gap who wish they weren't working Thanksgiving but feel that they'd lose their jobs if they weren't willing to take an extra shift. There are also going to be people with jobs at Radio Shack who wish they could earn some extra cash and get out from under that credit card debt. I'm not persuaded that there's a first-order question of social justice here one way or the other.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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