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For Teens Working In Retail, Thanksgiving Means Another Day On The Job

Meosha Farris, center, will work on Thanksgiving Day for a higher wage

A number of retail stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day again this year, to squeeze one more shopping day into their biggest season. Many of the low-wage workers folding shirts, running cash registers, and stocking Frozen sparkle princess dolls will be teenagers. How do teenagers in Texas try cram their family holiday around their shifts?

This is the first year that 18-year-old Meosha Farris has a job, at a Walmart in Ft. Worth. She’s proud to be working and earning her own money. But when Thanksgiving came around, she hoped for a little more of a holiday.

“It kinda upsets me because I wanted to be home with my family, but then again it’s my job," she said. On the upside, Meosha says she’ll get paid more than her usual $7.65 an hour. Especially as a new employee, her work schedule isn't really her choice.

"They just put me on the schedule. Everyone has to work that day. Every employee,” she said.

Her mom is going to try to have dinner ready for her early, so she can get in for a 6 to 11 pm shift. She's scheduled for a full day on Black Friday.

Meosha has heard about Thanksgiving and Black Friday madness at Walmart, but doubts it will be too different from any other day.

“I know I’m going to see some crazy things, like people fighting and stuff, 'cuz I see it when its not black Friday,” she said.

There are over a million teenagers in Texas working retail jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While many stores will stay closed this Thanksgiving, some major stores are opening just as families are saying grace over the most celebrated meal of the year.

“I wanted to get this job so I could help my dad with bills or always have a little money that I could give to them,” said Tyra Williams, 18. At the clothing store where she works, in the outlet malls in Grand Prairie, her Thanksgiving Day shift starts at 4:30 and ends at midnight. Shoppers could show her a little love.

“I could be with my family, too. So I hope those people are going to be nice," she said.  "Don’t want to ruin my day!”

As anyone who has worked a holiday knows, coworkers can turn into an impromptu family and make a holiday away from home memorable.

“We have a potluck at work, and everyone’s going to bring food and enjoy the time we have together," she said. "Even though we can’t see our family, it’s just going to be our time.”

Tyra will also eat with her mom’s family around 11 a.m. and her dad’s family around 2. It’s her last Thanksgiving as a kid, because she plans to be in college next year, studying to become a nurse. I reminded her that she may work holidays for the rest of her life as a nurse.

So, happy holiday to all those airline pilots, police officers, ambulance drivers and journalists working tomorrow. Teenage cashiers and fitting room attendants are now part of the club.

The KERA Yearbook Project is an American Graduate initiative.