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Unpredictable and Unstable Work Schedules = an Unfair Economy for Working People

Senator Warren talks with workers about the challenges they face with unfair scheduling.

Imagine having your hours cut by 75% after asking for a schedule change to care for your 7-month old baby, or never knowing week-to-week the hours you will be working, leaving you unable to plan for the most basic aspects of your life—like how much money you will have for groceries each week, when to schedule college classes, and whether or not you can drive your children to doctor’s appointments or show up for a soccer game.

This reality plagues millions of low-wage workers across the country, hitting women and working parents particularly hard.

That’s why, this week, worker activists from Walmart and Target shared their stories in Congress with Representative Rosa DeLauro and Senator Elizabeth Warren, to make a powerful argument for why Congress must pass the Schedules That Work Act (STWA).

Working People, Their Families, and Their Communities Deserve Better From Employers.

  • “I am here because what’s happening to me and other people who work in retail is not right. Our families and our communities deserve more.”
    • We heard from Madison, who works at a Target in Philadelphia, PA. Madison counts on her job to pay tuition at community college and to help care for her mother, who is disabled. This past fall when she tried to go back to school, Target refused to give her hours that worked with her class schedule, and responded to her request by drastically reducing her hours from 30 hours each week to less than 15. Because of her irregular hours, Madison is not eligible for benefits, does not have enough money for food or transportation to and from school, and is unable to provide the care her mother needs.
  • “Unfair and inconsiderate scheduling practices are a direct cause of 321% turnover at my Walmart store.”
    • We heard from James, who works at a Walmart in Dallas, TX. When he first began working at Walmart, the managers would inexplicably cut his hours to zero some weeks. Rather than staying home and risk being fired, he showed up at his store and demanded to be put on the schedule. Although he now works full time at his store, his employment is anything but certain. Turnover at his store is incredibly high – and unfair and inconsiderate scheduling practices are a direct cause of the turnover.
  • “We are not just employees, we are parents, teachers and caregivers and we definitely deserve better.”
    • We heard from Joanna, a Walmart worker from Mississippi, who is a single mother to a nine year old girl. Joanna knows firsthand that predictable scheduling is a must for any parent. As a result of her fluctuating schedule, she recently had to pull her daughter out of private school because she could no longer afford the tuition. Then, when she asked for a slight reduction in hours so she could help tutor her daughter, Walmart slashed her hours from 36, down to 8, and then ultimately terminated her.
  • When I reached out to my manager to ask for a schedule change, I was told that “having a child is no excuse.”
    • We heard from Kingia, a Walmart worker in Philadelphia. After being a loyal employee to Walmart for four years – including unloading 7-foot high pallets of heavy goods in her job as a frozen dairy stocker throughout her pregnancy – Kingia hoped that her store would understand when she asked to adjust her work schedule to be more available for her 7-month old son. But when she asked to change hours, her schedule was cut from 32 hours to 8 hours. Walmart did nothing to repay her loyalty when she needed it most.

Congress Must Act to Pass the STWA—and Reject Attacks on Working Families

Representative DeLauro speaks at a press conference for the Schedules That Work Act.

The STWA, introduced in the House by Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) and in the Senate by Sen. Warren (D-MA) is a critical step towards ending unpredictable and unstable scheduling. So far, 22 Senators and 89 House Members have signed on to the Schedules That Work Act. (Is yours one of them?)

If passed, the bill will provide real protections and stability for working people. It will give employees the right to request a change in their work schedules without risking retaliation; ensure that working people who need a schedule change because of critical obligations, like caregiving, have a right to receive that change if there’s no good business reason not to grant the request; and require employers in certain low-wage industries to provide two weeks’ notice of work schedules—and extra pay to hourly employees who have shifts changed or added at the last minute, or are sent home without working their scheduled shifts.

These seemingly simple protections simply do not exist for millions of workers across the country – and it’s high time that Congress acted to ensure that all working people have the protections that many already take for granted.

The STWA is especially important in light of the many attacks being waged on working families in Congress right now. For example, on the same day that House Republicans released their incredibly harmful tax plan, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) introduced H.R. 4219.  Misleadingly named the “Workflex in the 21st Century Act,” H.R. 4219 would allow employers to disregard paid sick days laws in 40 jurisdictions and wipe out protections against abusive work schedules in states and localities around the country, as long as they meet weak federal standards that let employers retain control of their employees’ work schedules, including when and whether they can use paid time off. This bill and others like it must be stopped.

We all deserve schedules that work and the STWA is an essential step to ensure that all working people have schedules that allow them to thrive.