MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Target Corp. received six red-and-white Target bags full of petitions Monday signed by 190,000 people to protest stores opening for "Black Friday" sales at midnight, the morning after Thanksgiving.
The petitions, delivered by Target employee Seth Coleman to a representative at the retailer's Minneapolis headquarters, were the result of an effort started by Anthony Hardwick, an Omaha, Nebraska employee who said the store's decision to advance its "Black Friday" opening time interfered with family gatherings.
"Thanksgiving is a holiday for family to get together," said Hardwick, 29. "If you're having your employees show up at 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, they're going to spend their day sleeping so they can get ready for the busiest shopping day of the year."
Target, Macy's, Gap, Kohl's, and Best Buy all plan to open at midnight on Friday morning in an attempt to boost sales. The stores have in past years started their Black Friday sales at 3 or 4 in the morning, but hours were moved earlier to boost sales and in response to customer demands.
Both Walmart and Kmart will be open Thanksgiving Day, as well as some Gap stores. Movie theaters and many drug and grocery stores are usually open on Thanksgiving.
In a statement, Target said that it valued and respected the rights of all team members to express their opinions.
"The decision to open at midnight on Black Friday was not one we took lightly," said Anahita Cameron, a Target director of stores human resources, in a statement. "As that is the busiest shopping day of the year, it is imperative that we be competitive. Our guests have expressed that they would prefer to kick off their holiday shopping by heading out after their holiday celebrations rather than getting up in the middle of the night."
Coleman, 29, a Target worker from Northfield, Minnesota, said he has been scheduled to work two shifts on Thanksgiving Day -- the first from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. to unload special sale items from trucks, and the second starting at 11 p.m.
Coleman started work at Target for $7.75 an hour a few weeks ago. He said that in past jobs working in delis he has had to work on Thanksgiving -- but he objects to working two shifts, which eliminates any possibility of time with family.
"I'm willing to be one of the people to stand up and let them know this sort of thing is not going to be tolerated," said Coleman, who thinks Target workers need to unionize. Coleman said he delivered just over 190,000 hard-copy petitions, but that online, the effort had gathered over 200,000 signatures.
Hardwick said he had been scheduled to work Thanksgiving, but his hours "mysteriously disappeared" after he launched his petition drive, so he will spend the day with his family. He said this is not about his plans, but the plans of other Target employees.
"I'll have my team members who have to be in Target in my thoughts and prayers," said Hardwick, who makes $8.50 an hour and has worked for the retailer for three years. He said his fellow employees and Target customers have been supportive of the petition.
Asked if having a later start time would interfere with Target's ability to compete, Hardwick said, "I think that Target is better than its competitors, and I think they need to take the moral high ground where others have failed."
Coleman was joined at Target headquarters by the Rev. David Breeden of the Minnesota Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
"We speak with great piety about 'family values' but our actions imply only the value of more," Breeden said in a statement. "Target Corporation, consider what a few hours means to these employees; consider what time with family means."
Brianna Cayo Cotter, spokeswoman for Change.org, the web site where Hardwick launched his petition drive, said over 50 copycat petitions have been started on the web site, targeting Macy's, Best Buy, Walmart, Kohl's and other retailers.
Walmart's "Black Friday" sales start at 10 p.m. Thursday and midnight and 8 a.m. Friday, depending on the part of the store.
(Writing and reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Additional reporting by Mihir Dalal, Jessica Wohl and David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune)