After Thanksgiving, support the rights of workers

It’s appropriate that American Thanksgiving falls in the Samhain season. Part of the work of Samhain should be bringing in the harvest and being grateful for it. I see Thanksgiving as a way to continue the work of the season.

For many of today’s Pagans, this “harvesting” is largely metaphorical or figurative. We don’t have to lay down enough food to last the winter and decide which parts of our herds to slaughter. But there are lots of people in our world today who have to gauge their resources to the last penny, and then some, and who struggle year-round to make ends meet.

A prime example is the plight of Walmart workers. Walmart, owned by the richest family in America, has an extensive list of offenses: paying workers a pittance; failing to provide benefits, such that workers have to rely on additional government assistance; unsafe labor environments; discriminating against women; and trying to prevent workers from organizing in order to improve their situation. I’m not going to go into all the details; here’s one of many other posts where you can learn more.

This Thanksgiving, as we meditate on our gratitude and strive to find ways to share with those less fortunate, we have a prime opportunity to put our values into action:

Walmart is trying to start Black Friday early on Thursday evening. Don’t go.

Walmart workers are striking on Black Friday. Don’t shop at Walmart on Friday. If you can, check out the Corporate Action Network or OUR Walmart to find other ways to support them. There’s also an Occupy-organized fund to provide money for food for striking workers.

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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9 Responses to After Thanksgiving, support the rights of workers

  1. I never shop at Wal-Mart for all of those reasons, and more. I think the last time I bought anything at Wal-Mart was in college, when there were few alternatives to big box stores near campus. I have so much love and support for the striking workers who are standing up for their rights to fair wages and fair treatment.

  2. mmy says:

    American Thanksgiving makes me actively angry. Since I am not an American and no longer live in the US it is something I watch with horror and amazement from outside the country.

    The big box stores have become the opium dens of modern American commodity fetishism.

    • The thing to hate about US Thanksgiving is the romanticization of genocide. (OK, and the continued enshrinement of a particular religion in a government that claims to be completely separate from religion.) Black Friday isn’t actually Thanksgiving, any more than Boxing Day is Christmas. Connected, but not the same as. Thanksgiving was problematic-as-fuck long before the first Black Friday sale.

      • Literata says:

        Although I’m not being explicit about it here, I think Thanksgiving can be reclaimed. I understand that others disagree. Since I think it can be reclaimed by abstracting it down to gratitude and sharing with community, I’m arguing for those values to carry over into the separate but connected shopping period to influence our behavior.

        • Hm. I think that, in the long run, this incarnation of Thanksgiving is too tainted by its own mythology. Some kind of day of giving thanks is a fine idea, but the third Thursday in November is now much too closely connected with the story about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag (the people they met at Plymouth). I don’t think it can be separated now, even though the inception of the current tradition is entirely separate from that actual history, and I think that the mythology as it stands contributes far too much to really damaging stereotypes of Native peoples, including the idea that they are gone now, part of history rather than the present. (I know a Wampanoag woman, which is the only reason I know the name of that nation, and this is one of her major issues with the holiday.) I don’t think it can be reclaimed from that damage, and since we are not the people it’s damaging to, I don’t think it’s for us to “reclaim” it at all. As members of our religion, we can reclaim traditionally negative terms like “witch” and “pagan,” because their negative meaning affects us, making it ours to reclaim. As women, you and I can reclaim “bitch” if we choose, because its negative meaning affects us. But we are not hurt by stories that cast Native people as Noble Savages and historical artifacts instead of people very much alive and with us and being harmed again and again. We can’t reclaim Thanksgiving from that, which is part of why I want to separate Thanksgiving from Black Friday.

          Because we certainly can choose, as our situation permits us, to support strikers, to not shop at places we have no need to shop at, which have practices that harm their workers. I don’t think we need to cling to a tradition that is hurting people in order to make that choice.

          Personally, I prefer to practice my own giving of thanks at Mabon.

          Note that none of this has actually prevented me from dragging myself to the extreme other end of the country to spend a long weekend with my family, and cook kind of an absurd meal for them. *sigh* Balancing my ideals against the reality that my brother and his family were going to be here (although my sister-in-law is too sick to have actually made it), and next year I won’t be able to come to Florida to see my family, is not easy. I try to do it by refusing to perpetuate the stereotypes as best I can, and to talk about this kind of stuff. And, separately, to not participate in Black Friday, because I can afford to not take advantage of those sales, and I don’t need to make more work for any retail worker on that day. And I certainly don’t need to shop at WalMart, at all. (Although actually, this is trivial for me; Seattle has no WalMarts. Going to one requires a good bit of effort.)

          Meh. It’s complicated. I respect your wish to have a day for giving thanks, even though I disagree that this one can be rescued.

  3. I support the striking workers, I don’t shop at WalMart, and I never shop on Black Friday (I worked too many of them in malls; retail workers gave it that name, and it horrifies me that it’s passed into common parlance as if it were a good thing).

    But. I am going to point out something that has been pointed out to me, by people for whom this is true.

    For all the problems with WalMart (and they are many and awful) and with Black Friday (ditto), those two, singly and in combination, are how many people living at or below the poverty line afford a great many things. Many people shop at WalMart because they can’t afford to buy clothes and other essentials anywhere else. Many poor families use Black Friday sales to afford Christmas gifts and electronics that are otherwise out of their reach, and even expensive essentials like winter coats.

    It’s important to talk about the problems with both WalMart and Black Friday. It’s also important to not shame the people who rely on those things, to not insist that they must give them up because we, in our positions of privilege, say that it’s bad for them to take advantage of things that allow them to have both basic necessities and luxury items (although things like computers and smart phones, traditionally in this category, are increasingly necessities in a practical sense).

    • Literata says:

      I don’t want to shame anyone. That’s why I tried to phrase things in terms of *possible* actions. I didn’t write “If you shop at Walmart, you’re a bad person.” Perhaps I should have addressed that more.

      I want everyone to earn a living wage so that they don’t have to rely on Walmart’s low prices. I know we can’t get there all in one step.

      • Personally, I don’t think you crossed that line. (And I think you know that if I had thought so, I would have said so.) But I think it’s important in any such conversation to acknowledge it.

  4. I am curious who had the right of the statistics at the end of the day. Both WalMart and the organization primarily responsible for the call to strike made claims about how many workers actually struck, but neither side substantiated those in any way that I found. The divide between the numbers reported would easily fit the Grand Canyon and the Laurentian Abyss with room to spare, so someone is clearly mis-informed, somewhere along the line. I wonder, too, how many workers “struck” without saying they were striking to avoid possible repercussions. In any case, I hope the attention garnered made an impression, if nothing else.

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