Work­ers’ sched­ules could be next coun­cil fight

Sur­vey shows many in ser­vice sec­tor re­ceive less than 7 days’ no­tice

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY PERRY STEIN Aaron C. Davis con­trib­uted to this re­port.

One-third of ser­vice-sec­tor em­ploy­ees who re­sponded to a DC Jobs with Jus­tice sur­vey re­leased last week said they re­ceive their work sched­ules less than a week in ad­vance. The last-minute sched­ul­ing, they say, makes it gru­el­ing to co­or­di­nate child care, shuf­fle two jobs and pay their bills.

Now ac­tivists are lay­ing the ground­work to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion be­fore the D.C. Coun­cil that would fight this prac­tice, dubbed “just-in-time” sched­ul­ing, by set­ting strict guide­lines that tell com­pa­nies how much ad­vance no­tice they must give em­ploy­ees when sched­ul­ing their shifts.

This type of work­ers’ rights leg­is­la­tion has al­ready been ap­proved in San Fran­cisco and is be­ing con­sid­ered in states in­clud­ing In­di­ana, Mary­land and Mas­sachusetts.

The lat­est ef­fort could test the met­tle of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s slo­gan of want­ing to “cre­ate pathways to the mid­dle class” for the Dis­trict’s work­ing class. Curb­ing just-in-time sched­ul­ing has emerged as a top pri­or­ity of la­bor groups across the coun­try, but strict man­dates on em­ploy­ers have been op­posed by the same busi­nesses that Bowser (D) has said she wants to em­power to ex­pand and cre­ate more jobs in the city.

At the same time, lo­cal ac­tivists are cam­paign­ing for a bal­lot ini­tia­tive to raise the city’s hourly min­i­mum wage to $15. The con­tro­ver­sial ini­tia­tive has al­ready gar­nered op­po­si­tion from busi­ness groups and would push the city’s min­i­mum wage to among the high­est in the coun­try.

DC Jobs with Jus­tice, which pro­motes work­ers’ rights, says it hopes to join with the D.C. Coun­cil to craft leg­is­la­tion in com­ing months and has the sup­port of at­large mem­bers Elissa Sil­ver­man (I) and Vin­cent B. Or­ange (D). Or­ange chairs the coun­cil’s Com­mit­tee on Busi­ness, Con­sumer and Reg­u­la­tory Af­fairs.

“We didn’t put in all th­ese ef­forts to get the min­i­mum-wage and paid-sick-leaves bills passed in or­der for it to be com­pro­mised by sched­ul­ing is­sues and em­ploy­ees not get­ting the ap­pro­pri­ate hours to work,” Or­ange said.

The sur­vey of about 500 work­ers, by DC Jobs with Jus­tice along with the DC Fis­cal Pol­icy In­sti­tute and Ge­orge­town Uni­ver­sity’s Kal­monovitz Ini­tia­tive for La­bor and the Work­ing Poor, shows the ef­fect of er­ratic sched­ul­ing. Work­ers from big com­pa­nies with a pres­ence in the Dis­trict, in­clud­ing For­ever 21 and Mar­shalls, said that in­con­sis­tent sched­ul­ing is per­sis­tent. Forty per­cent of work­ers sur­veyed said that their ini­tial sched­ules changed at least once a month and that there’s a 50 per­cent chance they’ll get less than two days’ no­tice of the mod­i­fi­ca­tion.

Stephanie Dunn, a cashier at Mar­shalls in down­town, said she re­ceives her sched­ule the Fri­day be­fore each week and that, even then, it’s sub­ject to fre­quent changes.

A spokes­woman for Mar­shalls wrote in an e-mail that “gen­er­ally speak­ing, our prac­tice is to pro­vide Mar­shalls store As­so­ciates with their sched­ule ap­prox­i­mately ten days in ad­vance.”

“At Mar­shalls, we ap­proach our busi­ness by tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion what is best for our As­so­ciates and for the Com­pany over­all and our store man­age­ment teams work to de­velop sched­ules that serve the in­ter­ests of both,” Mar­shalls spokes­woman Doreen Thomp­son wrote.

Com­pa­nies are al­ready re­spond­ing to in­creased scru­tiny across the coun­try about just-in­time sched­ul­ing. Star­bucks an­nounced in Au­gust that it would re­quire all work hours to be posted at least one week in ad­vance and will amend its sched­ul­ing soft­ware, al­low­ing em­ploy­ees to pro­vide more in­put in the process.

Dunn also said in the sur­vey that she wants to work a full 40 hours at Mar­shalls in the Dis­trict but was re­cently cut back to 15 hours, de­spite, ac­cord­ing to Dunn, Mar­shalls re­cently hir­ing an­other cashier at her store. The sur­vey and ac­com­pa­ny­ing re­port said th­ese re­tail and ser­vice stores typ­i­cally have a large num­ber of em­ploy­ees on staff so they can keep them on call, ex­pect­ing them to work non­stan­dard and last-minute shifts.

The av­er­age ser­vice em­ployee in the Dis­trict, ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey, works 32 hours a week. More than 23 per­cent of re­spon­dents said they feared re­tal­i­a­tion if they com­plained about their sched­ule; 18 per­cent said they had been pe­nal­ized for re­quest­ing a dif­fer­ent sched­ule.

“It’s frus­trat­ing and stress­ful to not get hours,” Dunn said. “The money from 20 hours a week only gets me back and forth to work but noth­ing more formy fam­ily.”

Ari Schwartz, a cam­paign or­ga­nizer at DC Jobs with Jus­tice, said the D.C. leg­is­la­tion could also in­clude a clause re­quir­ing busi­nesses to as­sign ad­di­tional work hours to cur­rent em­ploy­ees rather than adding more part-time em­ploy­ees to their work­force.

“In or­der for th­ese com­pa­nies to op­er­ate in the Dis­trict, they should be pro­vid­ing jobs that aren’t just bot­tom-of-the-bar­rel jobs,” Schwartz said. “They should be pro­vid­ing mid­dle-class jobs.”

While work­ers and ac­tivists would like to see stan­dard­ized sched­ul­ing prac­tices, busi­ness lead­ers say such laws could drive away jobs.

“I’m con­cerned about any­thing that would make it harder to do busi­ness in the city. Busi­nesses share with em­ploy­ees the de­sire for sta­ble and pre­dictable work sched­ules, but that must be bal­anced against the need for flex­i­bil­ity to meet cus­tomer and op­er­a­tional de­mands,” said Harry Wingo, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the D.C. Cham­ber of Com­merce.

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