Labor Day memorializes laborers’ courageous fights throughout our nation’s history for fair working conditions, starting with battles over long hours, low pay, child labor, and unsafe working conditions in the 1800s and 1900s that led to major advances in all of these areas.
And today, workers are still on the frontlines – fighting for livable wages and for an end to abusive scheduling practices, which are increasingly common in the American workplace. All too often, employers require that workers have completely open availability to be eligible for full-time hours, and cancel and assign shifts at the very last minute. Too many part-time workers simply cannot get enough hours at their jobs to make ends meet.
Workers are fighting to establish protections from these abusive scheduling practices. And these protections are especially needed by workers in low-wage jobs which are among the fastest-growing in our economy today and where these practices are often rampant. Women are hit particularly hard—because women make up two-thirds of those in low-wage jobs, and they also shoulder the lion’s share of caregiving responsibilities. Employer scheduling practice leave too many scrambling to arrange child care at the last minute, struggling to pay their bills, unable to hold a second job, and forced to put their dreams of going to school to get a leg up on hold.
Take Melody Pabon and her four-year-old son Mason, pictured here, for example.
When Melody, who works at Zara in New York City, asked to transfer to an earlier shift so that she could get back home to see Mason before he went to sleep at night, her hours were cut from 35 to 25 over the course of a few weeks. As a result, she had to pull Mason out of his child care center where he was learning and thriving. Paying for a full week of care (as is often required) when Melody could not get a full week of work was simply not doable. Now Mason is shuttling between family and friends, depending on who Melody can find to watch him after she gets her schedule – often just two days’ ahead of time.
Workers like Melody are joining together, through organizations like the Retail Action Project, and fighting for fair work schedules. And they are winning. For example, members of OUR Walmart recently achieved a major victory, forcing the retail giant to implement an access to hours program, that helps part-timers work their way closer to full-time schedules. Workers are winning scheduling protections in collective bargaining agreements too. And legislators are taking notice. At the federal level, the Schedules That Work Act, just introduced in July, gives workers a voice in their work schedules and increases predictability and stability by requiring reporting time pay, split shift pay, and advance notice of schedules. Last year, Vermont and San Francisco passed laws giving workers the right to request flexible or predictable schedules. And San Francisco legislators are introducing new legislation this month that would guarantee more predictable and stable schedules to hourly workers in the city’s chain stores, fast food restaurants, and banks.
This Labor Day Congress can show its support for Melody and Mason and millions of other working families by passing the Schedules That Work Act.