What Do We Lose?

What do we lose, as families and as communities, by not having common days off?

What do we lose, as families and as communities, by not having common days off? Is time for neighbor to meet neighbor, time for a family dinner with grandparents or friends important to us? Is it important for us to turn out to honor the veterans at parades, or to maintain a spirit of community by attending a townwide event?

Thanksgiving Day shopping is currently making news. While Rhode Island’s "Blue Laws" will prevent stores here from opening before midnight on Thursday, the Rhode Island Retailers Association plans to meet with the General Assembly to ask for the law to be changed. They would like Rhode Island to allow stores to be open Thanksgiving Day. I hope the General Assembly will reject their request.

One employee of a Target store that will be open on Thanksgiving Day has started an online petition at Change.org asking the store to remain closed for the holiday. Some may question the need for a petition. After all, if someone wants to work Thanksgiving Day, why not let them? I ask you to question: are they really working voluntarily? How many have assumed, as I did before re-entering the workforce, that employees working on Sundays were doing so voluntarily?  They chose to work Sunday for the extra pay? How many assume those employees who will work Thanksgiving afternoon will be doing so voluntarily? I submit it is not always the case.

In my experience, employees who object to working Sundays are routinely scheduled anyway. RI Labor law 28-3-3 states that an employee cannot be penalized for refusing to work Sundays. However, we are also an “Employment at Will” state. An employee who attempts to exercise this right, if they are even aware of it, potentially puts their job in jeopardy. An employee at the State Department of Labor was kind enough to point that out when I inquired. An employer can simply decide to let them go without citing the desire not to work Sundays as the reason.  If allowed to open Thanksgiving Day, it will be no different. In this economy, how many would be willing to take that risk?   

A right that cannot be exercised without jeopardizing one’s employment is not really a right. Is it?

I  contacted my state representative and senator about requiring stores to close on Sundays. The only one to call me back was concerned stores would loose revenue if R.I. stores were closed but Massachusetts or Connecticut stores were open. We hear so much about “family values” in our political discussions. And yet, valuing families seems to be tossed aside the minute it conflicts with making money.

We the consumer are part of the problem. The stores are open Sundays and holidays because we patronize them. Were it not profitable for them to be open, they would not be. Do we really need to shop on Sundays and holidays? Is our desire to shop worth coercing someone else to take time away from their family? Is it worth losing the sense of community we feel at parades or neighbor knowing neighbor and block party BBQs?

I think it is time to ponder the questions:

  • What do we lose, as families and as communities, by not having common days off?
  • What is important for maintaining family ties and community?

We hear the laments at each parade about how attendance has dropped. Is it because so few have the day off? Is it important for us to maintain the spirit of community present when we all turn out to honor the veterans at the parades on Veterans Day and Memorial Day? Is it important to us that families have time to travel and break bread together?

The next time you have the urge to shop on Sunday or a holiday, think about what we value for our families and communities. Think about what you are giving up, what the employees are missing, and what we are losing as a community.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

ctt November 29, 2012 at 04:48 PM
John Weisley should find out facts before attacking the Police and the Fire Departments. If you had a clue you would know if they are working a shift that falls on a holiday the get their regular rate as if it were any other day of the year. The 50 to 100 dollar rate isway over inflated also. So get some facts straight before telling the public lies. A lot of people believe everything people put on these blogs and I think it's a great disservice to the men and woman who help keep our citys and towns safe, by putting false statement out there.
JoBobDing November 29, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I dont know, b kcaj. There's not much love for unions these days. In fact, most of America wants unions to go away. I look foreward to the day when municipal employees in Middletown go on strike so we can fire them all and start anew... no union extortion, ergo, lower taxes. What part of that is not to like?
Joe November 29, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Would that many emergency workers are paid that way, as they do not fall under the Federal Law of the FLSA (Fair Labor Standerds Act) which regulates overtime for all workers in the Country if not exempt from it. That is how pay rate end up being lower for emergency personel and cannot be compared to those who do fall under it. We use to call it chinese overtime in my job as it was 35 cents and hour more on holidays. After a law suit that went on for over 20 years it was straightened out, however it still ended up as you say. Though it is different all over dependent on Contracts. But with not coming under the FLSA, the Unions have no base line of pay to start like other who fall under it do.
Heather Tibbitts November 29, 2012 at 07:37 PM
The law is the law... but not all stores in this state seem to be following the law. RI Labor law 25-3-3 states " ...that it is not grounds for discharge or other penalty upon any employee for refusing to work upon any Sunday or holiday enumerated in this chapter;" (I should add that manufacturers running continuously 7 days/wk are exempt.) A representative of the RI Retailers Association is quoted as having said they plan to ask the RI General Assembly to allow stores to be open on Thanksgiving. If they can't seem to follow the law about Sunday shifts, we should not expect them to behave any differently if allowed to open on the holiday. That is why I urge the General Assembly to reject their request. In the meantime, I urge would-be shoppers to consider whether the employees serving them on a Sunday or Holiday are really doing so voluntarily. Not everyone is in a position to risk their job by saying no. Is our desire to shop worth making someone else sacrifice what in these days can be all-to-scarce family time? What are we giving up? Is being able to buy something on a Sunday or holiday worth what we are losing as families and communities?
Joe November 29, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Heather if they are violating the law then they should report it to the AG which they can do anonymously if they chose. No business should be able to break the law on anything. Laws are only good if people report them that are victims. As I said before if people do not like the law you must challenge it and demand redress. That is every citizens right. Nor can you be penalized for doing that as that also would be breaking the law. I know it is hard to fight city hall as they say. But if citizens do not try then they have no one to blame but themselves in my opinion. A petition to the State is allways a good start. Look at the uproar the petitions have cause on the tolls and the recent stopping of the State forming the EBEC recently. It does work but takes at the least a few people willing to start the ball rolling and be vocal on it in media like you are doing. I commend you for that ;-}.


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