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Labor & Worker Rights Fri Nov 29 2013

Strikesgiving: Chicago Whole Foods Workers Strike for Fair Holiday Schedules

Chicago Whole Foods workers call for Thanksgiving off. (Photo/Emily Brosious)

Dozens of workers and organizers protested outside Whole Foods Market in Boystown on Wednesday evening as part of a day-long strike calling for fair labor practices including fair scheduling with a day off for Thanksgiving.

Striking Whole Foods workers were joined by members of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, OUR Walmart and other citizens concerned about what they see as an increasing number of retail shops choosing to stay open during Thanksgiving.

"It's becoming a scary trend," Deivid Rojas of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago said in an interview. "Thanksgiving is one of those national holidays that workers, who having been working all year making billions for these companies, should be spending with their families."

"We are here to defend Thanksgiving and to demand that Whole Foods give their workers a fair system of scheduling," Rojas said.

For most of the country, the holidays are a time to relax and be with loved ones, Matthew Camp, a Whole Foods worker and member of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, said in a statement. But low-wage retail employees who are subject to holiday blackout dates, when they may not request time off, are unable to take these much needed days to celebrate at home, he said.

"The growing tendency of large retailers to keep their doors open on Thanksgiving amounts to another slap in the face to an already beggared workforce," Camp said.

Keith Stewart, marketing director for Whole Foods Midwest region, said Whole Foods does not force employees to work on Thanksgiving. However, individual stores may have different scheduling policies, he said.

"The different stores get a chance to decide if they're going to be open or not through team leadership," he said. "So some stores might be closed tomorrow. This one happens to be open. It's going to be open 8-3."

Chicago workers strike for fair labor practices outside Whole Foods in Boystown. (Photo/Emily Brosious)

Whole Foods workers are calling for a union, living wages and fair scheduling because they care about their families, said Trish Kahle, a Whole Foods worker and member of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago.

"It is disgusting that Whole Foods simultaneously talks about how much family matters around the holidays while forcing us to work--thereby telling us that OUR families don't matter," she said. "We are fighting for Thanksgiving because all families matter."

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