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Plant City Observer Friday, Dec. 2, 2016 1 year ago

Owner's Report: Holiday employees working toward a brighter future

Observer co-owner Felix Haynes analyzes what long holiday hours mean for employees today.

By Felix Haynes | Observer Co-Owner 

My Facebook page recently received a nice message, urging us to express our appreciation to store clerks during this Christmas season who are working extra hours.  

I identified with the message. As a college student, I worked as a part-time clerk at our local Maas Brothers department stores in downtown Tampa, the Westshore Mall and Gainesville.  

As I remembered those long-ago jobs, I realized that the message had a hidden meaning: that today’s store clerks are somehow being mistreated by being asked to work longer hours. 

Maybe there is some truth to that, but I believe there is a larger truth at work here. In my retailing jobs, I remember a holiday workforce made up mostly of temporary high school and college-aged workers. We were hungry for more hours and grateful for any hours we were asked to work.  

Yes, there were a few middle-aged workers and permanent clerks.  Even so, the young workers covered most of the extra hours.  

Is it mistreatment to ask employees to work more hours at Christmastime, or is it a good thing?  Much of the answer depends on how the employee views work.  

If workers see themselves as stuck in low-paying jobs with no opportunity for advancement, they might see the extra hours as mistreatment.  But if they see themselves as temporary, entry-level workers, looking ahead to higher level jobs in an economy that is creating more higher-paying jobs, they might be more like I was—grateful for the extra pay. 

An employee’s answer to this question is at least partially dependent on how they view the economy. 

Many of us who voted for Donald Trump did so with the expectation that, as a first priority, he would transfer his well-honed skills at building businesses and creating jobs to his new job as our chief executive. If he does, we hope that he will transform our economy to the vibrant engine of job creation that it has been at other times in our history.  

If that happens, workers will once again see the economy as thriving and jobs with higher pay and more opportunities.  We will still thank our store clerks for working extra hours at Christmas.  But with that thanks will come the assurance that their futures will be brighter — not because of a government edict, but because the private sector is thriving again.  

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