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Target employees protest over Thanksgiving shifts

Black Friday starts at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving day and retailers expect to ring up as much as 20 percent of their holiday sales over the Thanksgiving weekend. CNBC's Courtney Reagan reports.

Target employees are seeing red after the retailer announced its stores will open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, cutting into holiday time for workers. An online petition asking Target to not open on Thanksgiving has over 179,000 signatures, and the number continues to rise.

Thanksgiving, a time for family, togetherness, turkey ... and standing for hours to service the needs of the relentless hordes of shoppers seeking the last Furby and deeply discounted HDTV sets. Indeed, Black Friday, which traditionally started in the pre-dawn hours of Friday, has seen its hours pushed back in recent years so that stores start offering savings on Thanksgiving night itself.

This year, Walmart, Toys R Us, Kmart, and Sears are all opening their doors at 8 pm Thursday. Together with Target, that's two to four hours before they kicked things off last year.

A Target worker started an online petition calling on the retailer to not move Black Friday to Thursday. In a few days the petition gathered nearly 200,000 signatures. NBC's Diana Alvear reports.

Reached for comment, Target spokesperson Molly Snyder told NBC News: "Target’s opening time was carefully evaluated with our guests, team and the business in mind. Across the country, team member preferences were considered in creating our store staffing schedules. Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest of the year, and we appreciate our Target team’s flexibility on this weekend and throughout the holiday season."

Synder told NBC News that Target employees always receive time-and-a-half pay for working national holidays. Workers clocking hours during Thanksgiving and Black Friday also receive additional pay bonuses, she said. Only one-third of Target's workforce is  scheduled to work on Thanksgiving. 

Some employees are "excited" for the chance to work extra hours, she said. "We’ve heard from many stores that they had more team members volunteer to work than they had available shifts," Snyder said.

Not everyone is thrilled about stores being open on Thanksgiving, with Casey St. Clair, a Target employee, and Stacey Widlitz, S.W. Retail Advisors.

But there are a few people out there, almost 200,000, who think that something with "Friday" in the name should actually start on Friday.

The Change.org user who created the petition, "C. Renee," is a self-described six-year employee of Target living in California. In the petition description the user wrote that having to work on Black Friday prevented him or her from visiting their family on the East Coast.

C. Renee wrote, "I currently work two jobs, substitute teaching and work Target at nights and weekends, so having Thanksgiving off really does give me that one day to relax and visit family I otherwise have no time to see." The user did not respond to an NBC News request for additional comment.