Fair Workweek law would help working students

For two years, I have been trying to balance a demanding school curriculum and my retail job. Coming from a single parent household, I have to handle my financial responsibilities alone.

Over the winter, I took three classes while working about 20 hours per week, and was proud that I saved up enough to get a car.

But recently, my hours have been cut down to only 12 hours a week — even though management continues to hire more staff. The difference between 20 and 12 hours may not seem like a lot, but it’s almost cut my income in half. I haven’t been earning enough to meet my basic needs and do the maintenance on my car necessary to stay safe on the road.

I have co-workers who face the same struggle, trying to balance rigorous academic classes and unreliable work schedules. Some of them had to quit college and move back home to work because they couldn’t get enough hours to support themselves through school. A survey of 1,700 workers across Illinoisfound that over half of the workers who were enrolled in educational programming missed classes due to unpredictable work schedules.

People think that if you’re determined and work hard, you can earn a degree, qualify for better jobs and have some financial security. But many of us are relying on hourly service-sector jobs to get through school, and we’re juggling a lot. Unreliable part-time hours make it much harder to reach graduation day.

Now our aldermen have a chance to help us by voting to pass the Fair Workweek law. With advance notice of our work schedules and the opportunity to work more hours, students like me will be able to show up for classes and for our jobs, and stay on track to get that diploma.