Give shift-bound workers a break: predictable schedules | Editorial

Fast food and retail workers marched in February as part of the launch of a local effort to fight for "Fair Workweek" legislation, which has been passed in San Francisco and New York and mandates that companies use fair scheduling practices for their workers.

Parents shouldn’t have to choose between unpredictable work schedules and taking care of their children. But too many do.

Take the single father of a boy with behavioral issues. He dutifully scheduled his son’s doctor’s appointments so his son wouldn’t miss school and he wouldn’t miss work. But the father often got called in to his part-time job without notice and had to make the untenable choice of losing his job or taking care of his son. He took care of his son. He lost his job.

His story is too common, according to Community Legal Services attorney Nadia Hewka.

Unpredictable work schedules also keep low-wage, part-time workers from writing reasonable household budgets. Without knowing their work hours, employees don’t know what their weekly paycheck will be and how much money they’ll have to pay the bills. They can’t schedule child care, a second job, or the rest of their lives around work if they don’t even know when they’ll be called in. That’s an unreasonable demand on the working poor, who are already struggling to survive.

According to University of California researchers who  studied Philadelphia’s shift-bound workforce, about 77 percent of employees want predictable work schedules and 74 percent want more hours.

This month, City Councilwoman Helen Gym introduced a work schedule bill that would require big chain retailers and restaurants to give workers two weeks’ notice of their schedules and pay employees when scheduled shifts are canceled. That would be a step forward for people trying to get their lives and finances under control.

There are 130,000 part-time retail and restaurant workers across the city, and this bill would only affect the lucky ones who work for big chains. Some chains already are providing workers predictable schedules in Seattle, New York and San Francisco, which have fair work schedule ordinances.

But speaking at an informational hearing on the bill in March, Rob Wonderling, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, warned Council not to usurp the role of human resource departments, but rather to listen to business’ side of the story. He’s right about that, and over Council’s summer break, he’s got the time to line up a helpful response from the business community.

Gym also has some work ahead this summer. Her bill has seven co-sponsors and she’ll need nine votes to pass it.

But those on the fence should understand that this is not an unfair burden on business. According to Wendell Young IV, head of Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, larger companies already use predictive scheduling software to schedule workers based on expected sales volume. The Gap implemented stable scheduling in 19 stores in the Chicago and San Francisco areas and  increased sales revenue by 7 percent between November 2015 and August 2016. Researchers found that sales were up because predictable schedules lowered the turnover rate of experienced, productive employees.

Gym’s bill is just smart business. So, too, is having a workforce that isn’t frustrated and stressed out about child care and paying the bills.