Holiday retail workers stack their shifts to make ends meet
Some say stacking part-time jobs reflects a drop in full-time opportunities since the recession began in 2008, causing workers to take two or more part-time positions to make a living
Seattle Times business reporter
Early openersSome of the major retailers that will open early:
9 a.m.: Old Navy (Downtown Seattle)
11 a.m.: Gap (Downtown Seattle)
9 p.m.: Toys R Us
10 p.m.: Walmart
Midnight: Best Buy, Gap, Kohl's, Macy's, Old Navy, Target, Westfield Southcenter mall; Seattle Premium Outlets
4 a.m.: JCPenney; Sears, Northgate Mall
5 a.m.: Bed Bath & Beyond, Big 5, Fred Meyer, Kmart, Lowe's, Sam's Club, The Home Depot, Alderwood mall
6 a.m.: The Bellevue Collection
8 a.m.: Redmond Town Center
9 a.m.: The Shops at The Bravern
Randee Fosburgh will start her Friday after Thanksgiving before dawn this year, but she won't be shopping.
She's scheduled to work almost 16 hours among her three retail jobs at Alderwood mall in Lynnwood.
She will begin her day at 4:30 a.m., opening the Hickory Farms temporary kiosk that sells meat and cheese gifts. She will finish her shifts at the Piercing Pagoda jewelry store at 8 p.m., and she will sell gourmet desserts at PinkaBella Cupcakes in between.
"It's going to be really busy so it will go fast," Fosburgh said.
Some say stacking part-time jobs reflects a drop in full-time opportunities since the recession began in 2008, causing workers to take two or more part-time positions to make a living. The state's unemployment rate has been hanging around 9 percent for most of the year.
"All they're able to find after that is one or more part-time jobs to fill that gap and make ends meet," said Sage Wilson, spokesman for Working Washington, a coalition group that campaigns for job creation. "The vast majority of people in the vast majority of situations, what they want is a full-time job with benefits and a chance of a stable life."
Fosburgh, 22, an education major at Edmonds Community College, says she will work up to 80 hours a week for the next five weeks. She gets a free cupcake each day she works at PinkaBella, and all three stores have good employee discounts on top of minimum hourly wages, she says.
The latest figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 1.9 million workers 16 years and older say they hold multiple part-time jobs.
That's up from 1.7 million in October 2007, though the number has fluctuated in recent years and economists say the trend is slowing.
"There's plenty of workers out there who are piecing together multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet," said Tom Geiger, communications director for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, a union that represents retail employees. "That raises all sorts of questions about family life, ability to have any life outside of work. It's definitely an increasing problem in workplaces across America."
Geiger said the union, which represents some Macy's workers, hopes within the next year to negotiate higher pay for the retailer's employees who work from about 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The day after Thanksgiving is dubbed Black Friday because the surge in shoppers could tip stores into the black, or profitability, for the year. But moving up the kickoff to Thursday is a growing trend.
The National Retail Federation reported after last Thanksgiving that 22.3 million people in the U.S. shopped on the holiday, both online and in stores. That was double the 10.3 million reported in 2005.
Retailers opening earlier this year include Walmart at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and Macy's and Best Buy at midnight. More than 40 stores at Alderwood mall will open at midnight, with the mall itself opening at 5 a.m., an hour earlier than last year.
A Macy's spokeswoman said the company scheduled its opening shift, which begins late Thanksgiving Day, on a volunteer basis, although it wasn't clear whether this was able to fill all those positions.
Brittany Leimbach says she will wake up at 2 a.m. to work 18 hours Friday between her two retail jobs at Alderwood mall. She says she is trying to work as much as possible before January, when her hours usually are cut back. She also attends Edmonds Community College but is taking winter quarter off to focus on work.
"If I can save money now to compensate, that's what I do," Leimbach said. "It takes a little bit of planning."
She says it's hard to spend time with family and friends during the holidays and she plans to leave her Thanksgiving festivities early to get enough sleep for Friday.
Travis Picou, a Best Buy sales manager, says a number of employees at the Northgate store asked to work longer hours to take advantage of overtime pay. Those who work Thanksgiving Day get time-and-a-half compensation.
Picou, who transferred recently from Northgate to the Issaquah store, says Best Buy employees know working late holiday hours is a possibility and plan accordingly.
"Some of us have just rearranged the times that we spend with our families," he said. "It's just adjusting the time that you have dinner, so that you can have that quality time and then get back to work."
Fosburgh says she feels lucky that none of her employers is opening at midnight, and she said she will get through Friday like any other day: "Coffee."
Alexis Krell: 206-464-3263