Seattle’s proposed law is intended to protect workers from erratic schedules and would require employers to post work schedules two weeks in advance, among other things.

Share story

Retail workers from the likes of Starbucks and REI spoke passionately on behalf of a “secure scheduling” proposal at a Seattle City Council public hearing Tuesday night, while representatives from companies including Home Depot, JC Penney, Petco and several Subway franchises spoke against it.

The proposed law, intended to protect workers from erratic schedules, would require employers to post work schedules two weeks in advance, give available hours to existing part-time employees before hiring new workers, and pay additional “predictability pay” when they make changes to the posted schedule. If it passes, it would likely go into effect in July next year.

Several Starbucks employees spoke of not getting enough work hours.

Oliver Savage, a Starbucks barista, spoke of requesting 30 hours a week and getting 20.

Darrion Sjoquist, a former Starbucks barista, said it had been hard to schedule his life when his work schedule was unpredictable. He told those present: “This bill isn’t about taking power away from businesses. This bill is about removing the power away from anyone to abuse another human being.”

Collin Pointon, a sales associate at REI, said he would like the law to guarantee a minimum number of hours.

Crystal Thompson, a mother of three who works at Domino’s Pizza, said it was hard to schedule her life when “I only get a schedule one day in advance.”

Some workers spoke out against the ordinance.

Simone Barron, a server at Tom Douglas’ TanakaSan, said the proposed law is an “intrusion into the way we construct our schedules.”

Barron is part of a group called Full Service Workers Alliance of Seattle, which wants to see an exemption in the ordinance for all full-service restaurant workers.

The proposed law now applies only to large retailers and quick-serve establishments with 500 or more workers, and to full-service restaurants with both 500 or more employees and 40 or more locations. That means Tom Douglas restaurants would be exempt.

Barron said the exemption should apply to all full-service restaurants. “The problem this ordinance is supposed to solve does not exist in the full-service industry,” she said.

Several representatives from Home Depot spoke in opposition to the ordinance, saying the company already practices many of the provisions in it.

Naveen Kumar, who owns five Subway restaurants in Seattle, said: “I built three restaurants from scratch. This is the end of my being a franchisee in Seattle.”

He’s closing several of his Subway locations in Seattle by the end of this year, in part, because of the higher minimum-wage law, he says. A scheduling law would raise his costs further if it requires him to pay an additional amount to an employee he calls in to fill in for a sick worker, he said.

(The proposed law would require employers to pay extra “predictability pay” to any employee called in for extra hours, or who has hours cut, after the schedule has been posted. But it also says an employer would not owe “predictability pay” if the employer fills a vacant shift by asking for volunteers via “mass communication,” such as email or text.)

The Washington Retail Association, which earlier Tuesday said it was opposing the law, spoke against it further during the hearing.

Separate from the hearing, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and ten other business associations in Seattle — mostly neighborhood and minority chambers of commerce, submitted a letter to the Seattle City Council on Tuesday, saying a “one-size-fits-all approach will create more problems for employees. The groups urged the council to consider some of the effective scheduling practices already in use by employers.

The Seattle City Council committee that’s working on the scheduling law will hear more public comments at its meetings at noon Sept. 7 and 9:30 a.m. Sept. 13.