Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.


"Black Friday is a commercial nightmare, which is why, for the past decade or so, I've usually spent it at one of the many protest rallies at Walmarts around the country," writes Peter Dreier (Photo: Wikimedia/cc)

What I’m Thankful For: Food Workers and Anti-Hunger Activists

Happy Thanksgiving to all (except the Walmart board of directors)

Peter Dreier

I recently heard someone say that Thanksgiving is our least commercialized national holiday. That seems true.

Thanksgiving isn’t about buying and giving gifts. It is about getting together with friends and family (even the ones you don’t like), being grateful, and being forgiving.

It is a secular holiday, available to all, regardless of beliefs. You can say a prayer around the Thanksgiving meal if you want, but it isn’t obligatory.

If we overlook the Pilgrims/Indians mythology (a prelude to genocide), Thanksgiving is really about the harvest, which could be translated today into recognizing the people who bring us our food — the farmers, farm workers (thank you United Farm Workers, Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, and today’s Coalition of Immokele Workers), food processing workers (today’s counterparts to the meatpacking workers described in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and the cannery workers in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row), grocery workers (thank you United Food and Commercial Workers), and the restaurant workers (thank you UNITE HERE).

Thank you to Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Frances Moore Lappe’s Food First for reminding us about the conditions under which food gets from farm to table.

Thanksgiving also reminds us (like the Elijah Cup at Passover seders) to think about the millions of Americans, and billions of people around the world, who are hungry. Thank you to all the soup kitchens that feed the hungry and the anti-hunger groups that challenge the root causes of hunger — inequality, poverty, corporate agribusiness, and the concentration of landownership around the world.

This isn’t to ignore the worker exploitation within the turkey and cranberry industries (or the self-promotional Macy’s parade in New York), but Thanksgiving just seems more benign than the crass commercialism of profit-seekers around Christmas, Mothers Day, and Valentines Day.

Of course, the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, is a commercial nightmare, which is why, for the past decade or so, I’ve usually spent it at one of the many protest rallies at Walmarts around the country organized by the workers rights group OUR Walmart. They’ve put that day-of-protest on hold this year, but I hope they renew it soon. I miss the solidarity of standing with labor and community allies protesting the country’s largest private employer of miserably-paid workers.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all (except the Walmart board of directors).

Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier is the E.P. Clapp distinguished professor of politics at Occidental College. He is the author of  "The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame" (2012) and an editor (with Kate Aronoff and Michael Kazin) of "We Own the Future: Democratic Socialism, American Style" (2020). He is co-author of the forthcoming "Baseball Rebels: The Reformers and Radicals Who Shook Up the Game and Changed America" (2021).

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Two Democrats Back 'Dangerous' GOP Ploy to Kill Biden's Vaccine-or-Test Rule

The Republican-led resolution would "pull the rug out from under our Covid response efforts at a critical moment," one Democratic lawmaker warned.

Jake Johnson ·

Critics Warn Biden 'Summit for Democracy' Will Highlight Democrats' Failures at Home

"President Biden can't champion democracy across the globe without fulfilling his promise to protect our voting rights at home."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Like a Teenager Promising to Clean Their Room in 30 Years': Biden Net-Zero Climate Goal for 2050 Ridiculed

"2050 is an extremely weak goal for the federal government to free itself from climate-heating pollution. It ignores existing technology and adds decades to GSA's own commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2025."

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Should Cancel Student Debt or Watch $85 Billion Evaporate From US Economy: Analysis

Far-reaching cancellation enacted by Biden could add more than $173 billion to the nation's GDP in 2022 alone.

Kenny Stancil ·

Given Cover by Red-Baiting GOP, Corporate Dems Rebuked for Tanking Biden Nominee for Top Bank Regulator

"If you think that Senate Democrats rose up to [Republicans'] shameful display of modern McCarthyism by rallying around President Biden's nominee or her ideas that banking should work for the middle class, then you don't know the soul of today's Democratic Party," wrote one columnist.

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo