December 6, 2012

Protecting Missouri Families, One Thanksgiving at a Time

Remember that time your older brother swiped the last slice of pizza from the box (when he already had two), and you realized life is not fair?

It is an unfortunate moment, and you can pout all you want, but nothing will bring back that last slice. You might demand from your parents that they institute a rule to punish any child who takes more pizza than anyone else; they will say no, and you will pout some more.

But imposing rules when something does not seem fair to you is not a good reason to institute a rule. It is dangerous to make a decision that affects others based solely on your opinion.

The legislation proposed this week to prevent Missouri retailers from opening on Thanksgiving Day smells like it is based on personal opinion of what is “best” for others. Would some retail employees benefit from it? Absolutely. But there is no way to determine that closing retail stores on Thanksgiving is correct, or good for the state.

Missouri Rep. Jeff Roorda (D-Dist. 113), who proposed the “Thanksgiving Family Protection Act,” said that as retailers have expanded store hours on Thanksgiving, employees have less time to spend with their families. This may be true, but I would like to highlight why that is not a good reason to enact this policy.

  1. Retail employees are aware of the expectation to work some holidays and weekends when they take the job. We all have aspects to our jobs that we do not love — should we enact legislation to prevent all those things from happening?
  2. Some people may actually want to work on Thanksgiving. They may depend on that extra day of income and this bill would take that away from them. (Or, maybe they just want an excuse to avoid Aunt Esther’s squash casserole.)
  3. If people did not want to shop on Thanksgiving, stores would be closed. People have demonstrated it as enough of a priority that stores decided to be open. It is not like the Target CEO is walking into people’s dining rooms and forcing them against their will to go shop.

I have worked in retail — I know it is not fun to be stuck at work when my friends or family are all hanging out together. But as Show-Me Institute Policy Analyst David Stokes said, “It’s not the government’s role to tell businesses when they can operate.”

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