Capitol Connection: Holiday Pay

December 24, 2013

The holiday season is a time for friends, families and, while it may make some of us cringe, shopping.

This year, holiday shopping began earlier than usual with many stores opening on Thanksgiving Day. People criticized the retail industry for interrupting family gatherings and forcing employees to work on the holiday. Despite concerns for employees, over 45 million shoppers still made it out to the stores on Thanksgiving, according to the National Retail Federation.

Here in Connecticut, State Rep. Matt Lesser (D-Middletown) started a petition to try to discourage stores from opening on Thanksgiving. He proposed making retailers who stay open on Thanksgiving pay their employees triple their ordinary wages. While I know his heart was in the right place, this idea is so far-fetched and proposes such a high level of government control that I could not support it.

Here is the problem. We are all concerned that people are forgetting the important things (family, friends, traditions, etc.), but trying to create a law that burdens and controls local businesses cannot fix people’s attitudes. More government control is not the answer.

If people did not want to shop on Thanksgiving, stores would remain closed. The fact is there is a demand for more shopping by the people and businesses are simply responding to that demand. Exerting government control over wages, in an attempt to influence a business’s decision to open, is not the way to address this issue.

Requiring employers to pay their employees triple their usual wage is implausible for most businesses. Some retail stores have already implemented more realistic time-and-a-half pay or other holiday rewards for employees. So, I am perplexed by the petition’s proposal of such a huge, arbitrary “tripling” instead of a manageable method.

The petition also raises the question of where we draw the line. Would such a law apply to all retail locations, including gas stations, pharmacies and supermarkets? What would happen if the business owners of these retail establishments that sell necessities could not afford to increase wages on a holiday? Would government try to force everything to close down?

Another perspective to consider is the employees who want to work extra during the holiday season. If a retailer closes because they cannot afford to pay their employees triple their usual wage, employees who want to work will lose that opportunity completely. Enjoying your family and friends on holidays is very important, but in these tough times many individuals may not want to lose any weekly hours due to a holiday closure.

I hate to see people get carried away with the commercialization of the holidays, but more government control is not the solution. Individuals must decide when they want to shop and if they want to work. Government cannot control people by burdening business owners with outrageous requirements.