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Blue Laws and Black Friday

Black Friday will not be starting early for people in Massachusetts. In many states, stores like Walmart, Macy’s, and Target will be open on Thanksgiving to give Black Friday shoppers a head start. However, because of blue laws that date back to the 1600s, Massachusetts stores are not allowed to be open on this holiday. 

What are blue laws?

Blue laws are a type of law that is designed to restrict or ban shopping on all or some Sundays and holidays for religious standards. Blue laws are also used to ban and restrict the sale of certain items, such as alcohol, on specific days.  In the U.S. Supreme Court, blue laws have been held as constitutional in multiple situations due to secular reasons. The origin of these laws were made for religious purposes, and most blue laws have been repealed in many states.

In Massachusetts, these blue laws were made by Puritans during the 1600s, and created to keep Colonists from straying away from the church to drink, dance, and conduct business on the Sabbath. Over time, these limitations have weakened, such as alcohol sales on Sundays, but the ones pertaining to Black Friday have stayed. The Massachusetts Department of Labor has not issued a permit allowing retail stores to be open on neither Thanksgiving nor Christmas. However, restaurants, pharmacies, and hotels are exempt from this law.

Pro-Blue Laws

Some people believe blue laws should stay enforced to help employees not feel pressured to work on holidays, and give them a day off. This is a major reason why Massachusetts has continued to issue this law.

In addition to Massachusetts blue laws, some nationwide chain stores are refusing to open on Thanksgiving. Stores like Nordstrom, Costco and BJ’s Wholesale Club are straying away from the new “early Black Friday” trend, and are not opening on Thanksgiving day. Costco’s vice president, Paul Latham, stated, “Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season, and we simply believe that they desire the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families.”

The Opposition. 

In Massachusetts, merchants have continued to oppose blue laws; they say they are losing business to neighboring states that do not have this requirement. For the neighboring states, this causes longer store hours to meet consumer demands, and makes the workers of those states work more than they should.

In 2005, the attorney general at the time issued reprimands and threatened to file criminal charges against retailers who planned on opening on Thanksgiving. The penalty was a fine of $1000 per violation. The laws are set and retailers in this state are expected to follow them.

For now in Massachusetts, Macy’s plans to open at 12:30am on Black Friday, Target opens at 1am, and Walmart opens at 4am.

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