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The Washington Post reports this morning that Safeway has decided to open about half its 100 Washington, DC-area stores on Christmas, as well as selected stores in other markets around the country.

The decision will make Safeway the only major chain operating in DC on Christmas, as competitors such as Giant Food, Shoppers Food Warehouse, Food Lion, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Harris Teeter all keep their doors closed and their employees at home. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) referred to the decision as “heartless,” and suggested that the Safeway decision could lead to other chains making the same decision in future years in order to remain competitive.

Greg TenEyck, a Safeway spokesman, told the Post that in other markets where Safeway has tested Christmas hours, it has been successful, and that the chain is mindful that not all of its customers and employees celebrate Christmas. He said that the only people who will work on Christmas will be those who volunteer to do so, and that they will be paid triple time.
KC's View:
We have to admit to being conflicted on this one. On the one hand, it seems ridiculous that there can’t be one day in the year that a store can be closed. (We remember when supermarkets weren’t even open on Sundays…)

But Safeway is right. Not everybody believes in Christmas, and not everybody celebrates it. And as long as the people who volunteer to work that day are being amply compensated, why shouldn’t the store be open?

The tricky thing, we think, is making sure this doesn’t become an issue that further drives a wedge between labor and management. Labor relations aren’t exactly filled with comfort and joy at Safeway, and if this isn’t handled right, it won’t help.