Secure scheduling legislative process begins

This morning Council member Lisa Herbold began the process of drafting legislation to address secure scheduling.

This began with an agenda item in the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development & Arts Committee this morning: a summary of the academic research to-date looking at the effects of scheduling unpredictability on workers.

It was a fascinating presentation by professors Susan Lambert and Charlotte Garden (watch the video here — jump to 42:50).

They attributed the dramatic rise in problematic staffing practices to the business practice of using cost containment to drive profitability. It’s led to front line managers being given a fixed budget of worker hours to allocate under enormous pressure to “stay within hours.” Demand-to-hours ratios are monitored very closely, in real time, with day-to-day and sometimes hour-to-hour adjustments. This is most prevalent in retail and food-service jobs. There is still a widespread perception that those jobs are mostly held by teens and college students for whom hour fluctuations aren’t necessarily a big issue; but today a large portion of those jobs are held down by people who are trying to make a living — and in some cases raise a family — from the wages. This is exacerbated by the erosion of protection for workers, including as Council member Sawant pointed out the steep decline in unionization of workers over the last six decades.

There was also some discussion about how other cities have responded to this issue, focusing particularly on San Francisco, where workers get paid for a minimum number of hours whenever they are required to be “on call” for a shift; and in Washington D.C. where workers are allowed to decline shifts offered less than 3 weeks in advance. Enforcement and protection from retaliation (e.g. when a manager refuses to schedule someone who has refused shifts in the past) are still open issues however.

Committee chair Herbold also circulated a draft schedule for developing legislation in this area. She had developed the schedule with Council member Gonzalez, who has a deep interest in secure scheduling and whose Gender Equity, Safe Communities & New Americans committee also cares about this issue. Their intent is to make it an iterative process in cooperation with the Mayor’s office, using Council committee meetings as working sessions with focus group meetings in between. Their hope is to have draft policy proposals the week of April 18, and to converge on a final policy the following week with a draft bill around May 23 that would move through the Council’s formal review and adoption process in June.