Seattle Times, February 4, 2016
The Seattle City Council may consider legislation requiring companies like Starbucks to provide employees with more consistent, livable schedules.
Having recently passed paid sick-time standards and a higher minimum wage for workers, the Seattle City Council might next consider legislation requiring more consistent and livable schedules for employees of companies like Starbucks.
Two council members took part Thursday in a “Secure Scheduling Online Town Hall” held by Working Washington, a union-supported worker-advocacy organization.
Councilmembers Lisa Herbold (District 1) and Lorena González (Position 9) heard workers speak about scheduling problems, then said they would pursue legislation.
“This is about giving workers predictability,” said González, mentioning she once worked in a fast-food restaurant. “I worked three jobs to pay for college … I grew up as a migrant farmworker. I understand what it means to have a lack of predictability.”
Two Starbucks employees, a former Starbucks employee and a Domino’s Pizza employee took part Thursday. They called scheduling by the companies “inconsistent,” “inconsiderate,” “unpredictable” and “disrespectful.” The panelists have enjoyed working in the service industry but find the lifestyle unsustainable, they said.
Herbold said she was a mother working in the restaurant industry during college.
“I routinely had to make a choice between school and work,” she said, promising the panelists she would help write scheduling legislation “that meets your needs.”
Panelist Crystal Thompson, 34, who recently gave birth to her second child, said she works 40 hours some weeks and 15 hours other weeks at the Domino’s in Columbia City.
“We usually don’t see our schedules (for the upcoming week) until Sunday night, so it’s really hard trying to plan and find child care,” she said.
Ilana Greenberg, 28, who works at the drive-through Starbucks on Elliott Avenue West between downtown and Interbay, said her weekly schedule can fluctuate wildly.
“I’m supposed to be working 27 to 30 hours a week. That’s what I asked for,” she said. “Two weeks ago, I worked 38. This week I’m working 22. Next week I’m working 15, and my only option is to go around to my co-workers to other stores in my district and beg to take a shift to cover that gap in my paycheck.”
Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis officials have proposed legislation related to scheduling, and a Retail Workers Bill of Rights approved by San Francisco officials in 2014 includes scheduling protections for chain-store and restaurant employees.
But Herbold, who was elected in November and who chairs the council committee primed to take on the issue, said Seattle may carve its own path.
She said she believes the city has the legal authority to regulate worker scheduling.
“What other cities are doing will be relevant,” she said. “But first I think it’s important to create a place at City Hall where we can come together and talk about the issue.”
Starbucks in 2014 vowed to give in-store employees more consistent schedules and to post those schedules 10 days or more in advance. But a report by The Center for Popular Democracy said in September the company had been falling short.
“This is an industry challenge we have been addressing directly with our partners (employees),” Starbucks spokeswoman Ashley Lowes said in a statement Thursday.
“We are continuing to listen to their feedback and make improvements to give them the hours they want, when they want them, and where they want them.”
Washington Restaurant Association President Anthony Anton said Thursday in a statement: “We are concerned about what a mandated restrictive scheduling policy could mean to our employees and our businesses. We want to ensure restrictive scheduling policies won’t defy a crucial cornerstone of restaurant employment — flexibility.”