‘Heck yeah’ Seattle just passed a worker scheduling bill

Sep 20, 2016, 5:34 AM | Updated: 5:36 am

Sealed with a “heck yeah,” the Seattle City Council unanimously voted in favor of new regulations on employee scheduling within the city limits Monday. Employers will now be required to adhere to strict scheduling rules, and employees will likely have more regularity in their work lives.

“Heck yeah,” was Council Member Lisa Herbold’s exclamation when asked for her yea or nay vote on the bill.

“Much like paid and sick leave, and minimum wage, Seattle is once again a leader in workers’ rights,” she said.

An exodus of low-wage workers from Seattle

Her colleagues on the dais equally touted the win for workers in Seattle.

“The labor movement in Seattle, and across the nation, are fighting back,” Council Member Kshama Sawant said before the vote.

Council Member Lorena Gonzalez — who was co-sponsor of the bill — said that the legislation aims to address problems among Seattle’s lower-paid workers, and that the city studied the issue to craft it.

“Not being able to pay rent, wondering whether you’re one paycheck away from being homeless, shuffling at the last minute to find child care, or sleeping through classes after working back-to-back shifts,” Gonzalez said, listing off the problems with abusive scheduling practices. “We learned that Seattle is not immune from these burdensome scheduling practices, and worse, we learned that they fall disproportionately on people of color and women.”

The new law means that workers will get two weeks advance notice of their work schedules. Additionally, any changes by an employer will result in the worker getting extra pay. There would also have to be a minimum of 10 hours between shifts. And employers would have to offer any available hours to existing employees before hiring more people.

The rules would only apply to large businesses with at least 500 workers. Smaller businesses that have spoken out say the new rules would hurt them.

In the lead up to the bill’s passing, Sejal Parikh, the executive director of Working Washington who served on the group that shaped the labor law, says the law would break new ground “that will change the balance of power in coffee, food, and retail workplaces across the city.

“It will transform the lives of tens of thousands of Seattle workers by recognizing that people who have jobs also have lives and needs outside of work — and requiring that big companies make schedules which respect that our time counts, too,” Parikh said.

The campaign for secure scheduling began in September 2015 when baristas rallied outside Starbucks’ corporate headquarters. Since then, others have joined the cause.

REI employees, for example, shared stories of struggling to live in the city they work and began publicly calling out the company. In July, as workers were fighting for a better scheduling system, more hours, and better pay, the company announced it was increasing wages in a series of changes. The Co-op’s leadership told its employees that a quarter of its stores would see a bump in wages — mostly around 10 percent. REI leadership insisted that the changes to employee pay and scheduling were not a reaction to employees sharing stories of being hungry and homeless.

Not all workers support the proposed law.

During a public hearing in August, The Seattle Times reports several workers spoke against the law. A server at a Tom Douglas restaurant told the Seattle City Council that it would be an “intrusion” in how schedules are built.

Naveen Kumar, the owner of five Subway restaurants in the city, said three of those were built “from scratch,” and that “this is the end of my being a franchisee in Seattle,” the Times reports.

Even the Washington Retail Association is opposed to the ordinance. The association warns visitors that the ordinance would “require retailers and restaurants to follow strict and burdensome guidelines.”

“It has produced a complicated and confusing 48-page draft with little evidence that such a regulation is necessary,” a statement from the association reads.

KIRO 7 contributed to this story.

MyNorthwest’s Dyer Oxley contributed to this story.

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‘Heck yeah’ Seattle just passed a worker scheduling bill