The Oregonian Live: Scheduling restrictions would help employees and employers (opinion)

Originally published by The Oregonian Live, Shaun Sieren
June 22, 2016

Photo by Michelle Brence/The Oregonian 

Giant corporations are trying to scare you again. They claim to speak for Main Street businesses while they push for policies that would further devastate our local economy. Now they would prohibit potential protections for employees that are necessary to have a healthy consumer economy.

As a small business owner and employer, I believe in treating my employees as I would want to be treated. My employees are like family. Investing in them is the right thing to do. It's also good for my business. That's why I applaud Oregon policymakers' efforts to find common-sense solutions to end abusive employee scheduling practices.

Existing scheduling policies are untenable for working families. Employers aren't required to give any notice for changes in schedules and often ask employees to be available for regularly scheduled "on call" shifts — meaning they don't know if they are scheduled to work until a shift is about to begin.  

These practices make it impossible for employees to plan for child care, college classes, a second job or even a simple dentist appointment. Even worse, employees who can't reliably count on regular hours can't know what their income will be from week to week. Given Oregon's high cost of housing and child care, we can't expect families to live with that kind of volatility.

A labor standard targeting these worst practices wouldn't impact my business significantly. We live and work in this community and we are already doing many of the best practices that are being proposed — scheduling in advance, giving people a predictable number of hours and ending unpaid "on call" shifts. We use these practices because it's good for business. Our high retention rate, low turnover costs and strong loyalty have benefited our bottom line.

There is a value for businesses in providing quality work practices. A statewide policy would lift everyone in our community up. When workers are healthy and rested, they're better employees. When they can plan to care for themselves and family members, they are better community members. When they have predictable schedules, they can plan for expenses and even save up for larger purchases. They can eat family meals in restaurants and go to movies. They can enjoy a day out supporting neighborhood businesses like mine without worrying that they'll be called away for a last-minute shift. When more consumers are able to spend more money, businesses profit. That's how the economy works.

Employees do need these basic rights and protections. I know from experience that implementing them is not burdensome. It's the right thing to do for employees and for business.

Shaun Sieren owns The O'Neill Public House in Portland.