First came the fight and passage of the “living wage” in western Washington. Now a “livable schedule” is under consideration in Seattle.
The group, Working Washington, a labor advocacy group, is focusing its efforts on shift scheduling. “Just like Seattle workers led the way forward in the fight for $15, we’re going to lead the way to win one of the nation’s first secure-scheduling laws,” the organization said on its website.
Supporters of the ordinance say that unpredictable and insecure schedules deny thousands of workers the flexibility they need to plan time with their families, live balanced lives, and participate in their communities.
Asian Pacific Islander (API) workers surveyed earlier this year by Working Washington found:
All of the part-time API workers had their work weeks vary by eight hours or more — a week-to-week difference of a full-time work day.
- 50 percent of part-time API workers reported they were expected to have open availability.
- 58 percent of surveyed API workers get their schedules one week or less in advance.
Working Washington has not yet revealed the specifics of their proposal, but its website states “secure scheduling means” workers should receive advance notice of shifts. The ordinance is still being written, but it is expected to include a “predictability pay” penalty if an employer changes a worker’s hours after the advance notice window and a guaranteed minimum pay for workers who are “on-call,” but not called in to work.
“Under restrictive scheduling, a manager would face a fine and be discouraged from offering hours to a mom forced to miss two days of work to care for an ill child.” said Jim Szymanski of the Washington Retail Association. “What manager would willingly pay a fine to address a last-minute request of a parent to attend a child’s school event or a student’s request for more hours when classes are canceled for exams?”
San Francisco has passed a similar law and provides an interesting case study on how the regulations impact small businesses and their workers.
The Washington Police Center said, “An unexpected warm weather streak last summer increased consumer traffic for many retailers. Businesses (in San Francisco) say they were unable to call in extra staff and consumers were frustrated by the lack of sufficient service. And some workers complain the city’s new regulations have discouraged employers from offering them extra hours or shifts on short notice because they would be required to pay the extra ‘predictability pay’ penalty.”
Teizi Mersai, manager of Lam’s Seafood Market in the International District, said he applauds the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) for looking out for Seattle employees. However, he is concerned that “we are moving forward just because other cities are doing this, or we are competing with other cities to come up with the ‘best’ (employee-positive) city to work in.”
Mersai is urging more business owners and managers from the Asian community to speak out.
“I did not see many other businesses from the ID District, aside from Uwajimaya, attending [the City of Seattle] stakeholders’ meetings. I do not know if this is by design, or [if] OLS just did not publicize it enough, but ordinances [like this] can lead to more harm than good.”
Food for thought: Working Washington is funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
While the City of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage ordinance does not include a union waiver, the $15 minimum wage campaign in SeaTac, which kicked off the whole “15 Now” movement, does. The movement started as an effort to intimidate SeaTac employers into unionizing. When employers resisted, union executives made good on their threat to fund a $15 minimum wage ballot measure, complete with a clause to incentivize employers to unionize.
The goal is that unionization becomes the “low-cost option” for employers to avoid paying otherwise mandated benefits.
Additionally, more unionized employers mean more union members, which mean more union dues. Washington is not a right-to-work state, so workers have no say in whether they pay those dues to be represented by the union; it is a condition of employment.
We support workers’ rights and the rights of business owners to run their operation in the most efficient way. However, there must be a balance, a “give and take.” This should be an agreement up-front between employer and employee, not a one-size-fits-all government regulation. Employers will lose the flexibility they need to quickly respond to customer needs, and workers lose important work opportunities, a lose-lose situation for all.