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Rhode Island native hits Target for Thanksgiving hours

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: theday.com

Published 11/21/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 11/21/2012 11:31 PM

A lawman's daughter, she's an unlikely rabble-rouser.

But native Rhode Islander Casey St. Clair, a resident of Corona, Calif., has stirred things up in the last couple of weeks with her online petition imploring Target, the retail chain, to abandon its plan to open stores on Thanksgiving night.

Her bid would appear to have fallen short, but even if she's only succeeded in getting Target to reconsider next year, "that would be awesome," St. Clair said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

Her dad, Westerly Police Chief Edward St. Clair, is very proud of her, she said.

St. Clair, 24, a graduate of Chariho High School and the University of Rhode Island, works part-time at the Target in Norco, Calif., as does her boyfriend John Watterlond, also 24, a former Montville resident who moved west with her to attend graduate school. She turned activist this month when the store posted her schedule for "Black Friday week." It seemed, she said, Black Friday had crept into Black Thursday, a trend among big-box retailers.

"I was going in at 8:45 p.m. (on Thanksgiving Day)," she said. "It just made me angry. I felt like they had crossed a line. Up until now, everyone in retail had Thanksgiving Day off. … I was thinking that it was a little much."

So St. Clair went visited Change.org, an online petition website she'd heard about, and posted her message, addressing it to Target CEO Gregg W. Steinhafel.

"Return to Friday morning opening," she began, and ended with: "Target can take the high road and save Thanksgiving for employees like me and our families by saying no to 'Thanksgiving Creep.'"

It went viral, conferring some unexpected celebrity on St. Clair.

Change.org contacted her and offered to promote the petition effort. Word got out, and the local media descended. On Monday, the website paid for her to fly to Minneapolis, where she delivered the petition bearing more than 350,000 signatures to Target headquarters.

"The vice president of human resources came down and took it off our hands," she said.

At a press conference, Tom Curoe, the VP, acknowledged the sacrifice of employees asked to work on Thanksgiving Day, saying the company had heard from many workers who supported the company's plans. Those who work today and "certain hours Friday" will receive additional pay, he said.

As the "Today" show was filming outside St. Clair's apartment, her boss called to tell her she could have Thanksgiving Day off.

"I declined," she said. "It wouldn't have been fair to the other employees. This was never about me getting the day off."

St. Clair, who also substitutes while waiting for a full-time teaching job, was to work at Target from 8:45 tonight until 5:15 a.m. Friday after working overnight Wednesday. She was scheduled to work Saturday and Sunday, too. She said she and her boyfriend hadn't planned a Thanksgiving trip back east this year, but even a visit to Watterlond's relatives in southern California was out of the question.

The pair met years ago when they both worked at the Target store in Waterford. St. Clair also worked at a Target in Rhode Island.

She said she bears no animosity toward the company and understands the economic pressures compelling it to open on Thanksgiving Day. But she has no regrets about her petition, either.

"The support I've received from everybody, including people I don't even know, tells me I'm right about this. It's made me proud to stand up and lead this charge to give Thanksgiving back to families."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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