The retail giant, widely credited as one of the best employers in its field, says Seattle’s secure scheduling proposal wouldn’t improve its employees’ work conditions but would impose administrative costs.
As Seattle leaders consider passing a sweeping law governing how retailers and restaurant chains schedule their workers, one locally based retail giant that’s well regarded for how it treats its employees says it’s opposed to the proposed law.
Costco is generally regarded as a good employer, with an entry-level wage that’s well above the minimum wage in most areas. This spring, it raised its starting wages for entry-level workers by $1.50, to $13 to $13.50 an hour. Its average wage for hourly employees is about $22 an hour.
In addition, Costco guarantees full-time employees 40 hours per week and part-timers 24 hours per week; posts schedules a minimum of two weeks in advance; doesn’t practice on-call scheduling; and offers health-care benefits to both full-time and part-time employees, according to the company. Its aim is to maintain a workforce that has a 50-50 balance of full-time and part-time employees.
Patrick Callans, senior vice president of human resources and risk management at Costco, said in an email that his company generally has “no objection to rules that require employers to make workplaces better for employees. But we think the proposed Seattle ordinance would impose an administrative burden on employers without providing much benefit to employees — at least to Costco employees.”
Employees at the warehouse firm seem to fare better under the company’s scheduling policies than workers at other large retailers, according to a University of Pennsylvania professor who’s studying some 7,000 retail workers at eight employers, looking at how workers’ schedules affect their family life and health.
“Costco does stand out as having the best practices of the bunch across a number of dimensions,” said Kristen Harknett, a Penn associate professor of sociology, who spoke at a recent briefing on scheduling issues convened by union-backed group Working Washington, which has pushed for the scheduling law.
The law, proposed by Seattle Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and M. Lorena González and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, includes requirements for employers to post schedules at least two weeks in advance, pay workers for some last-minute changes, and offer additional hours to employees before hiring new ones.
It would apply to retailers and fast-food, coffee and drink establishments with 500 or more employees worldwide, and to full-service restaurants with 500 or more employees and more than 40 locations worldwide.
Callans wrote that Costco’s “relationships with employees are very good, and we try to work cooperatively and flexibly with employees to balance their needs with the requirements of the business … At the same time, as a low-cost operator, we try to run our business as simply and efficiently as possible.”
He continued: “In our opinion, the proposed Seattle ordinance would do nothing to improve upon our relationships with employees, and would impose administrative requirements that could make it more inefficient to run the business. For this reason, we don’t support the proposed ordinance.”
Representatives from a number of companies, including Home Depot, JC Penney and Petco, have already spoken against the proposal at a public hearing last month.
The Washington Retail Association, which has called the legislation “clear as mud,” opposes it, saying it would lead to reduced work hours and less flexibility for employees.
Starbucks, in a letter to the Seattle mayor and City Council members, said it’s concerned the law could impede its youth and diversity hiring, and that the law included some “unworkable solutions.”
The company took particular issue with proposed rules about how workers get additional work hours, and compensation for last-minute changes to the schedules.
“As drafted, the current proposal will do more harm than good,” the letter says. “We have no issues with taking on egregious actors who harm front-line workers, yet as currently written you will be harming companies that do the right thing and aspire to create even more opportunity in our city.”
Nordstrom said it had nothing to say on the issue at this time.
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.