- - Thursday, November 26, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Black Friday is traditionally the first taste of holiday cheer. Thanksgiving is unique in that it has never been commercialized like Christmas, although they’re working on it. One national advertiser thinks it should be renamed “Thanksgetting.” For union organizers, it means an opportunity to protest for higher wages. If the crowds flocking to the nation’s malls are anything like recent years, it means consumers aren’t buying the politics of envy.

Demonstrations led by union organizers have been greeting shoppers at some of Wal-Mart’s 5,200 stores across the country for the past three years, with little effect. This year, they’re upping the ante, along with the speed on their blenders. “Fast for 15,” a campaign led by the union-backed advocacy group called OUR Wal-Mart, promises to feature Black Friday picketers who have participated in a liquid fast for the past fortnight. Their goal is to force the retail giant to sign on to a campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour nationwide. Wal-Mart already pays employees more than the national minimum wage of $7.25, with new hires starting at $9 this year and $10 in 2016. A leap to $15 an hour could be devastating to the company’s bottom line. Recent wage increases have pushed its stock price to a three-year low.

Wal-Mart’s fault in the eye of the union isn’t its wage structure — but the fact that the 1.4 million employees of the world’s largest retailer are stubbornly non-union. Based on the dismal results of the past protests, most of them are satisfied. To be sure, some actual employees have joined with outside protesters during past Black Friday demonstrations. Organizers have been scrutinized by the National Labor Relations Board for bribing participating workers with gift cards. The retail giant says it will have invested $2.7 billion in wages, education and training by 2016, but OUR Wal-Mart says it’s not enough. The organization’s website urges: “On Black Friday, we’re standing up to live better. Be there.”

Customers will likely be there, and at a multitude of other discount retailers from coast to coast — angry protesters notwithstanding. Shoppers spent $51 billion on Black Friday last year, an average of $381 each, according to Staticbrain.com, a firm that tracks online advertising. It’s not to suggest that Americans don’t care about their fellow man at the lower end of the pay scale. In fact, they donated $358 billion to charity in 2014, a greater sum than the gross domestic product of dozens of the world’s nations.

The Christmas season is all about giving, not taking. That makes Black Friday the wrong time for picketers to demand their “fair share.” Neither retailers nor consumers deserve the Grinch treatment for spending the day participating in the miracle of the marketplace.

Stores that embrace the trend of jumping the rush, by opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day, however, are a different story. They deserve to be rewarded with empty aisles. There is but one day a year for Americans to give thanks for the blessings showered by God on the exceptional nation. In the spirit that filled the early Pilgrims with gratitude at their first Thanksgiving, we ought to acknowledge our own good fortune. That can be most properly done with folded hands at the “groaning board” with family and friends. The mall can wait until the dawn of Black Friday.

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