In the late 19th century, many workers were held captive by the company town, which provided the jobs, rented the homes and ran the stores people subsisted on. The result was they were eternally indebted to their employer.
Today, many low-wage retail workers are similarly placed on a leash by their employer, even though they don’t work full time. They are called just hours before a shift is set to begin and ordered into work, schedule be damned. But more and more, they are declaring enough.
From New York to California, local governments are beginning to take notice of the issue of fair scheduling and how it negatively impacts workers and families. As the Center for Popular Democracy noted in a report last year, “These precarious work hours lead to income instability and make it difficult or impossible to arrange childcare, schooling, or a second job, or for a worker to manage his or her own serious medical condition.”
In New York City, there is currently a bill before the City Council that would eliminate on-call scheduling and would require employers to give workers at least 72 hours’ notice of any schedule change. New York’s attorney general, meanwhile, sent letters to businesses calling on them to end such practices, and about a dozen have complied.
Workers deserve to have predicable schedules, stable hours and reliable paychecks that allow them to support their families with the basic necessities. That means being notified about their schedule at least two weeks in advance and having the ability to turn down any unscheduled hours without jeopardizing their employment.
It also means being able to set reasonable limitations on their schedules, as well as the right to at least an 11 hour break between shifts so workers can get adequate rest.
More localities seem to be getting the message that their constituents deserve to be treated with respect in the workplace. That’s how workers get an American economy that works for all.