For much of the last century, many workers who worried about which stuffing recipe to use and whether to serve Aunt Gertrude a second glass of wine didn't have to fret about buying a turkey, which came courtesy of the boss man.
But the ritual of rewarding every worker with a Thanksgiving bird has dwindled in the face of declining union membership and slimmed-down corporate budgets. A North Texas Food Bank staffer who helps connect clients with turkeys said she hadn't heard of any local employer-run turkey distribution programs.
According to a 2008 report in the New York Times, the percentage of employers distributing turkeys has dropped to the low single digits.
"When the unions come in, the issue of the turkey becomes a standard practice," University of Pennsylvania professor Peter Capelli told the paper. "It wasn't that they bargained over the turkey, but if the company took it away, it became something that could show up in arbitration."
A few union shops have kept up the turkey tradition, although many now substitute vouchers for frozen poultry.
Real birds are still gifted at Genghis Grill, the Mongolian stir fry franchise based in Dallas. Spokeswoman Chiara Granado says the restaurant's given away turkeys to employees at its 26 corporate locations since the company's founding in 1998.
"For Thanksgiving, some people don't get that big dinner," Granado says. "We thought this would be something really cute and cool."
Genghis Grills' outlets are closed on Thanksgiving, so employees have the chance to enjoy their turkeys, she adds.
"We've been really huge on knowing our employees are hard-working," she says.
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