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Fair Workweek could bring stability to retail employees


The Fair Workweek L.A. coalition held a press conference recently alongside City Council President Herb J. Wesson Jr. and Councilmembers Curren D. Price Jr. and Paul Koretz to announce plans to introduce a fair scheduling ordinance for retail workers in Los Angeles. The conference was followed by an all-day forum during which members of the coalition attended panel discussions and training on scheduling issues in the retail sector.

“Retail workers deserve to have stability and predictability in their work lives,” Wesson said. “A retail job may not be a traditional 9-5, but these workers deserve scheduling consistency from their employers. If you don’t know when or how often you’ll be working week-to-week, it’s impossible to plan for your day-to-day life.”

“When our schedules are all over the place, not only does it affect our sleep and diet but it affects us socially and emotionally,” said Alissa, a cashier at Whole Foods. “You miss out on so much time with family and friends. It makes you feel isolated and depressed when you’re always the one missing memorable moments that  you’ll never get back.”

Last year, the UCLA Labor Center released its Hour Crisis report, which surveyed retail workers to investigate the scope of the sector’s scheduling problem. Over 147,000 people work retail jobs in the city of L.A., 84 percent of whom lack a set schedule. Retail is the second largest employer in the county: 1 in 10 workers in L.A. county are working in retail. These workers are under constant pressure as they scramble to get enough hours to make ends meet.

“When I don’t get enough hours I do whatever I can to get more,” said Adrian, a backroom team member at Target. “I scramble and basically beg my co-workers to give me their shifts until I have enough. I have to do this or else I will lose my health insurance. Working retail means living paycheck to paycheck but never knowing what your paycheck will look like.”

“What good is a minimum wage if employees are unable to work enough hours to make ends meet?” Price asked. He has championed the citywide $15 minimum wage and is chair of the city council’s Economic Development Committee. “L.A. retail workers live in economic uncertainty, making it difficult to predict their income, make time for school, or care for their families. These workers should have the right to stability, predictability and flexibility in their work schedules. It’s time the City of Los Angeles support retail employees by adopting a Fair Workweek policy.”

“Fair scheduling is a basic ingredient in human dignity,” said Rusty Hicks, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “Too many retail companies have taken that away, narrowing the rights workers have to a good night’s sleep, let alone enjoyment of their own lives. Corporate America, here’s your notice: the Fair Workweek Movement is taking it back.”

Fair Workweek is a suite of six regulations: written and posted work schedules, two weeks’ notice of work schedules, right to request a flexible schedule/right to decline hours without retaliation, predictability pay, right to rest, and access to additional hours. (Fact sheet attached.) Similar legislation has already been adopted in states and municipalities across the country, including San Francisco, Emeryville, and Santa Clara.

Seattle City Councilmember Lorena González (Citywide), who championed and passed similar legislation in 2016, attended the press conference to show her support. In 2016, Seattle was the second large city to pass a Fair Workweek Ordinance.

“In Seattle, we know that when worker’s rights are protected our economy thrives. Since 2012, the City of Seattle has adopted six labor-standard ordinances.  Today, our city has the lowest unemployment rate in its history and our restaurant, retail and hospitality industries are thriving,” said Councilmember González. “Hourly workers in Seattle demanded that their time and health be valued and respected, and we listened. Working class families deserve the opportunity to further their education, be engaged parents, and rest without fear of job loss or retaliation.”

In the first-ever study of the impact of fair workweek laws, researchers at Duke University polled workers before and after Emeryville’s Fair Workweek Ordinance took effect.

“In our research, we looked at the effect of Emeryville’s Fair Workweek Ordinance on working parents with young children,” said Duke researcher Anna Gassman Pines. “What we found is that the Fair Workweek Ordinance substantially reduced work schedule unpredictability for these parents, in particular by reducing last-minute changes in work hours. When parents are able to know their work schedules won’t be changed at the last minute, it makes it easier for them to arrange child care and coordinate their families’ routines.”