Thanksgiving and Black Friday mark the beginning of the festive season in the US, but Walmart workers are not feeling the cheer. The world's largest retailer will not be offering staff extra pay for working some of the busiest days of the year. Instead they will be offered a discount to shop at their own store.
More than 165 million people in the US are expected to shop between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, according to a National Retail Federation survey, the busiest shopping days of the year.
Several large retailers including Barnes & Noble, Costco and Trader Joe's have decided to close on Thanksgiving in recent years, arguing staff should have time with their family on the national holiday. But Walmart is one of several big-box retailers who are open on Thanksgiving Day and will start its Black Friday sale at 6pm.
Walmart is also one of the few big companies that does not offer employees increased hourly wages for working shifts on a holiday. At Target and Amazon, workers are paid time and a half for each hour worked.
"Walmart doesn't offer holiday pay. They have a discount you have to work certain days to receive and one discount only lasts two days," said a Walmart worker in Idaho who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. They are re scheduled to work full-time shifts on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday this year.
"No one is getting paid extra. You can't get overtime unless it's approved."
The worker shared a flyer promoting the 10% discount offered Walmart employees in December, with another 15% discount offered to workers who work shifts from Wednesday to Saturday, to use once on two specific days in December. A Walmart spokesperson confirmed the discount.
Walmart has received criticism from workers, labor activists, and elected officials for paying workers low wages while the family that owns Walmart, the Waltons, are ranked the wealthiest in the world with an estimated net worth of over $190bn.
The company's minimum wage was raised to $11 an hour in 2018, after the Trump tax cuts which provided Walmart with an estimated $2.2bn annual savings, a fraction of the cost-of-wage increases. Walmart also rolled out a $20bn stock buyback program after the wage increase was announced.
In 2016, the company changed its paid time off program to roll paid vacation, sick time, personal time and holiday time into one category.
A Walmart spokesperson said: "We simplified our paid time-off policies in 2016 to combine vacation, holiday, sick and personal time into one bucket. We did this to give our associates greater flexibility and more choice to use their time off when and how they want to. As part of this change, we no longer pay holiday pay. Associates can now cash out any unused PTO at the end of the year."