Needed: A Regional Employee Scheduling Law
For low wage retail and service workers at large corporations, there’s no moving forward.
Do you know what it’s like working long, erratic hours without knowing day to day what your schedule would be? Some of us do. If we haven’t worked in low-wage retail or the service sector, we’re lucky that usually our hard work paid off, and we could advance in our careers.
For low wage retail and service workers at large corporations, there’s no moving forward. When someone has an “I’ll do anything it takes” attitude, they are not rewarded for their labor, their adaptability or their commitment. Instead, they are often met with the chaos of unpredictable hours.
When people don’t have stable full-time or even part-time hours, they can’t budget or schedule basic things like child care, doctor visits, classes, family time or self care.
Take Cinthia, who works for DB Shoes, one of Emeryville’s numerous corporate retail chains. She works hard to take care of her family, but struggles with not having reliable hours. She juggles appointments for her younger brother,classes and work. When we met her, we asked how much sleep she got the previous night. She said, “Four hours.”A recent survey conducted by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy and the Center for Popular Democracy found that a staggering 80 percent of retail workers have fluctuating hours from week to week; 68 percent only receive part-time hours; and more than half experience “clopening” shifts — back to back closing then opening a few hours later.Two out of 3 workers surveyed want more hours but can’t get them. Fluctuating hours are considered undesirable by many workers. There are thousands of working people like Cinthia who are run ragged with erratic work schedules that not only have harmful effects on them personally, but on their families and our communities.
Our cities are built on everyone coming together to create a thriving place where people can live, work and play. But when people are not earning enough and have erratic schedules, they don’t have time to invest in our community or local businesses.
San Francisco passed a fair workweek policy, putting the Bay Area at the fair workweek movement’s forefront. Emeryville and San Jose are also considering similar policies to begin to move the entire region toward a more sustainable work model and ensure that people have both higher wages and regular, predictable hours they can count on.
Some of us take our routines for granted. We get up, rush to get everyone out the door, work a single job, come home, eat, go to bed. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. But for too many working people, that kind of stability is a dream. It shouldn’t be — and we can do something about it.
Now that we’ve won a $15 minimum wage across California, we know we need to finish the job and ensure working people have hours they can count on. A regional fair workweek provides hardworking people with the opportunity to work with stable schedules so they can pay the bills, live healthier lives, and contribute more to our communities.
Dianne Martinez is the mayor of Emeryville. Ruth Atkin is a member of the Emeryville City Council.