Workers push for City Council approval for Fair Workweek legislation

By Emily Neil

Philadelphia City Council will hold a hearing on Fair Workweek legislation on Tuesday that will potentially grant more than 100,000 workers who work at some of the largest companies in the retail, hospitality and food sectors in the city the right to advanced notice of their schedules.

“It means everything to me,” said Juan Mulet, 23, of the proposed legislation, introduced by City Councilwoman Helen Gym in June.

Mulet, a college student working to support himself, said that his experiences working retail at Skechers and Forever 21 made it difficult to plan anything in his life.

While at Skechers, his boss would often text him the schedule and say that he was working this or that day, but would not tell him the exact hours until that same day, he said.

“I’m a human being. I have to worry. And that isn’t fair,” said Mulet. Being able to know his schedule ahead of time would help Mulet be more present to help care for his mother, who is ill and often has doctor’s appointments. It would also aid him in his acting career - he often can’t plan to go to auditions because the schedule at his current workplace, which he declined to name, doesn’t send the week’s schedule until Sunday of that week.

The hearing with the City Council Law and Government Committee, to be held on Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. at the City Council, is the next step in the process of passing the bill. 

Kati Sipp, principal at New Working Majority LLC — a consulting company that works with labor unions, community organizations, and social enterprises committed to fighting for racial, economic, and gender justice — said that workers are most supportive of the legislation’s requirement that employers let their workers know their schedules two weeks in advance, as well as the stipulation that employers must offer any additional hours that arise to employees that are already working for them.

“[These] are the two things that I think workers are very excited about, because the combination of those two things will add much more stability to their lives,” said Sipp.

Knowing your schedule two weeks in advance means you could schedule a doctor’s appointment for your kid, or know if you’re going to make it to back to school night, Sipp explained: “If you are a person who has two part-time jobs, or is balancing a school schedule and a work schedule, you’ll know your work schedule and that gives you that scheduling stability.”

“The idea that they’ll also be offered new hours before employers are hiring new people means that greater chance for economic stability because, obviously, if you are able to work more hours and you’re not getting offered those hours by your employer right now, you’re earning less money than you might want to be able to earn,” she added.

Sipp said that, though there has been lobbying against the bill by some of the industries that would be covered under it, it has been on the legislative agenda for less than a year.

“We’re really counting on the fact that the City Council will respond to sort of the fact that there are 130,000 workers in the city who could potentially be covered by this bill and experience the improvements — that the voices of those 130,000 workers should be louder than the voices of individuals that manage a hotel in Center City,” Sipp said.

The bill would exclude the majority of food establishments: City Councilwoman Gym noted in a September interview with AL DÍA that the bill “eliminates probably 98 percent of food businesses in Philadelphia, so they won’t even be impacted.”

“We’re talking about large-scale employers, McDonald’s, chain restaurants, those that have...the technological capacity to get to zero food waste, every single month. I have a hard time believing that they can’t treat their employees with that same kind of respect,” she said.

After meeting an organizer from OnePA, a statewide activist coalition, Mulet decided to become involved in the Fair Work Week Campaign, and plans to attend the rally, organized by OnePA and others, to be held outside of City Hall on Tuesday afternoon prior to the hearing. 

“I’ve been trying to get my friends to come because it’s important,”Mulet said.