"Everyone is part-timed to death at these stores," Walton said. "When they sign up for these shifts, it's 'I don't get enough hours, I'm dying for hours, so I'll work these shifts.' Until we do something to stop the part-timing of the workforce, we're going to see this happen."
"Workers want to stop this before it becomes an absolute standard to work on Thanksgiving," Walton added.
Although retail companies have rebounded during the economic recovery, wages in the industry remain low compared to other sectors, with the average full-time sales worker making just $21,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many workers go without health insurance or other basic benefits like sick days.
Demos, a left-leaning think tank, released a report earlier this week that found large retailers could afford to pay employees a baseline salary of $25,000 for full-time work, which would lift 700,000 people out of poverty, while still remaining profitable. Because low-wage workers have little choice but to spend the money they earn, those higher paychecks would lead to 100,000 new jobs, the study said.
"Retail is a huge and growing industry," said Catherine Ruetschlin, the study's author. "There's a tension between how much we rely on retail and how retail isn't stepping up to do what it can to feed back into the economy." Many large retailers could cover such wage increases with the money they currently devote to stock buybacks, she said. "It [would be] a transfer of money from profit earners to low-income wage earners, who will then go out and spend it."