The Hill: What Does the Working Class Want? Better Schedules.

Originally published on The Hill on 06/23/2017 3:30 pm ET

Mirella Casares is a mother of two who juggles jobs at Victoria's Secret and Olive Garden to support her family. Her schedules are posted monthly, but they frequently change, sometimes with as little as a few hours’ advance notice. Every night before going to bed, Mirella looks at her schedule and knows it could change the next day, forcing her to rejigger her day, scramble to find childcare, and, if her hours are cut, struggle to pay the bills that week and that month.

Mirella faces the same plight as millions of Americans, who have increasingly become subject to erratic schedules that change from week to week – and often result in less hours than employees would like to work. A recent Civis Analytics poll showed that a stunning 67 percent of hourly workers suffer from unfair scheduling practices, with half of hourly workers given fewer hours than they would like and 38 percent experiencing varying number of hours from week to week. Nearly 30 percent have had their schedules changed the day of a shift.

 

In the past few years, a remarkable worker-led movement – often led by women of color like Mirella – has begun pushing back and winning schedules that respect employees’ time and allow working people to balance work, family and other responsibilities.

In New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and other cities, they have won fair workweek standards that extend a lifeline to workers who have been subject to grueling, ever-changing work hours that wreak havoc on their lives, families, and communities. Last year, voters in San Jose, Calif., overwhelmingly passed the Opportunity to Work Initiative, providing moms and students a fair shot to work enough hours to pay the bills.

And this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced legislation to ensure stable, reliable work hours nationwide.

These types of commonsense standards provide working parents and students with more flexibility, balance and voice in their work hours by ensuring adequate notice of their work schedule, protections against unhealthy shifts like "clopenings," and more opportunity to access full-time hours.

They are wildly popular with voters. A poll this week showed that nearly three in four Americans back laws that require employers give workers stable hours, input into their schedules, and more opportunities for full-time work. And it’s not just in progressive cities – some of the strongest support comes in the South and Appalachia, perhaps not coincidentally the areas where the most workers are vulnerable to scheduling abuses.

By championing a more sustainable workplace, workers have also demonstrated a stark alternative to President Trump and Republicans in Congress, who have taken swift action to roll back overtime ruleswage theft protections and work safety standards. Last month, the House of Representatives passed legislation to let employers avoid paying workers for overtime, rather allowing them to provide comp time – a practice widely abused by employers.

These deeply troubling, regressive changes would be particularly harmful to workers in the service industry, currently 80 percent of our economy and growing faster than any other part. That industry includes a broad range ofjobs, such as fast food workers and retail salespeople, that have been marked by low pay, unpredictable hours, and widespread labor violations. People working on the frontlines of America's service economy need more protections – not fewer.

President Trump and Congress are looking to prop up an economy of the past, rather than grapple with the economy of the future. Manufacturing and coal no longer fuel our economy. Today, Arby's employs more people than the entire coal industry combined. Retail and fast food workers are two of the fastest growing occupations in the country. And despite recent rumors of the death of retail, the retail industry is still one of the biggest jobs engines in the country, employing more than 16 million people.

As the service industry grows, workers filling those jobs will continue to fight for jobs that provide dignity and a fair chance. Worker-led movements were what fueled the victories in Seattle and New York City, and they are only growing. Soon, Oregon may become the first state with a fair workweek law, and other states aren’t far behind.

The experience of the Fight for $15 has taught us that when workers come together, there are few limits to what can be achieved. The fair workweek movement is reaching a watershed moment, and we won’t stop until all workers have the right to a good, family-sustaining job. 

Carrie Gleason is Director of the Fair Workweek Initiative.