Going to work on holiday can be profitable, fun — as long as it’s voluntary

By Jennifer Ledford

With large stores opening on Thanksgiving in droves this year, here are two takes on the new reality of shopping — and working — on this holiday.

A lot of employees of big-box stores have to show up for work this Thanksgiving, and they’re not happy about it. I have a couple of friends at J.C. Penney and Macy’s; one of them plans to call in sick on Thursday.

I’ll be at work, too, at my Jewel-Osco deli counter. I actually don’t mind it. It’s fun to watch customers’ faces light up when we hand them their turkeys. One holiday, a poor woman whose sister had just passed away was facing a sad Thanksgiving with no food. We gave her a free dinner, and it made her day.

Another reason I’ll work is I’ll make time and a half. I also will save someone else from having to come in.

There’s one more reason I don’t mind working this Thanksgiving. It’s my choice.

My friends in the retail industry are afraid of losing their jobs if they don’t work. They would rather be home with their families, but have no say in the matter.

As a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546, I have a union contract that ensures that I won’t be treated unfairly if I choose not to work on a holiday. This will be the 10th time I have worked on Thanksgiving at seven Jewel stores over 13 years.

Showing up on Thursday is not so bad. My co-workers bring in turkeys, mashed potatoes and desserts and we have our own little holiday up in the break room (yes, we bring food to the food store).

We’ll spend a lot of time handing out the dinners that customers have requested. So far, we have about 115 orders from churches and food pantries and about 20 for regular customers.

I’ll probably be at the counter from 8 a.m. to noon, then go home to my 5-year-old and 3-year-old daughters. The overtime money I earned will go into their college fund, with some also for Santa Claus. My turkey will already be in the oven on low heat (sorry, Jewel, I make my own). I’ll turn the temperature up to high and soon our holiday will begin.

Ledford works at a Jewel in Lake County and lives in Sleepy Hollow.

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

This piece by UFCW Local 1546 member Jennifer Ledford appeared in the Chicago Tribune on November 24, 2013


UFCW Local 1546 represents workers in Illinois and Indiana in a diverse range of industries including grocery and drug retailers; meat cutting, processing, and packing; chemical works; nursing home and healthcare facilities, and many others.