On Thursday, California's Assembly passed a bill that would require retailers with at least 500 employees to pay anyone who works on Thanksgiving double their normal earnings.
The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, characterizes the backlash faced employers pushing Black Friday hours into Black Thursday (also known as Thanksgiving), but is still heavily watered down from what she proposed back last year.
The Washington Post reports that Gonzalez had grand ideas for the possible law:
Gonzalez had initially wanted to bar stores from being open at all on the holiday and when that was a nonstarter wanted the double pay to apply to companies with 25 or more workers, and have it apply to food service workers as well. When that also couldn’t get traction, Gonzalez narrowed her bill to apply only to big chain retailers, including grocers.
Even in this more realistic state, the bill has earned criticism from pro-business opponents. Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, came to the big stores' defense, saying, "We’ve merely said big is bad and big is 500, and therefore we are going to dump again on folks like Walmart, folks like grocery stores… we will find those stores less able to serve their communities.” The Sacramento Bee notes that California Chamber of Commerce and the California Retailers Association are also against the bill.
It's hard to imagine that paying workers more on Thanksgiving will be what really hurts chain stores' bottom lines, however. CNBC pointed out last year that not only were both Black Friday and Black Thursday brick-and-mortar sales down, but that those who did shop during the holiday weekend still were much more likely to come out on Thursday:
ShopperTrak's preliminary figures estimated combined retail sales of $12.1 billion over Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a projected decrease from the comparable year-ago period. The firm added that Thanksgiving Day grossed just shy of $2 billion, while Black Friday pulled in more than $10 billion.
If the bill becomes a law, at least those shopping on Thanksgiving in California can feel a little better about their purchasing habits.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.