Seattle becomes the second major U.S. city to regulate how large retailers and food-service employers schedule their workers.
The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a “secure scheduling” law on Monday, making Seattle the second major U.S. city to regulate how large retailers and food-service employers schedule their workers.
Approval was expected, as the draft bill had passed out of committee last week with the five council members present all voting for it. The five represent a majority on the nine-member council.
The move again places Seattle at the forefront of a national movement on workers’ issues after the city passed, in 2014, a bill to gradually increase the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour.
Now, there’s a push by labor advocates for scheduling laws. San Francisco was the first major city to pass, in 2014, a scheduling law covering chain stores and eateries. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this month said he intends to introduce legislation regulating scheduling practices at fast-food restaurants.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who has supported the scheduling effort all along, has indicated he would sign the legislation, likely this week or next.
“Seattle once again is taking concrete steps to address income inequality,” Murray said in a statement Monday after the council vote. “Secure scheduling helps working families, young people, students, and workers of color by providing stability and clarity to their work schedule.”
Councilmember M. Lorena González, one of the council members who spearheaded the effort, said: “We are shifting the power to workers.”
Cheers erupted after the vote tally, with many in the audience waving “Our Time Counts” signs.
Sejal Parikh, executive director of labor-backed Working Washington, which has pushed for the scheduling law, said of its passage: “We’re really excited. This is a piece of policy that workers have needed for decades.”
The response from the business community was far more muted.
The Washington Retail Association said it would not be commenting Monday. The association has opposed the scheduling law, saying it would lead to reduced work hours and less flexibility for retail employees.
Meadow Johnson, senior vice president of external relations at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said: “The city’s survey showed that many hourly employees in Seattle are already satisfied with how their employers handle scheduling, so we will continue to work closely with our members to ensure that the rules do not negatively impact the flexibility their employees value.”
The law is expected to take effect in July and will apply to large retailers and quick-serve food and drink establishments with 500 or more workers, and to full-service restaurants with both 500 or more employees and 40 or more locations.
Backers say the law will protect employees from erratic and variable work schedules and from not getting enough work hours.
Employers would be required to give good-faith estimates of hours an employee can expect to work upon hiring, post work schedules two weeks in advance, provide at least 10 hours rest between opening and closing shifts, give available hours to existing part-time employees before hiring new workers, and pay additional “predictability pay” when employers make changes to the posted schedule.
The measure also requires employers to keep records for three years, documenting everything from responses to employee requests for schedule changes to good-faith estimates of the number of hours an employee could expect to work.
Unionized workers could negotiate an alternative for secure scheduling through collective bargaining.
Labor groups, which have pushed for the law, have spoken out heavily in favor of it.
Retail and business groups have been largely against it.
Councilmembers González and Lisa Herbold, as well as the mayor’s office, have spearheaded the effort, which has spanned some seven months and involved “stakeholders” groups representing workers and businesses, with those two groups meeting separately.
Herbold said in remarks before the vote that employers’ scheduling practices, geared toward controlling labor costs, disproportionately affect people of color, single mothers and especially women of color in the city.
González had said in a news conference before the meeting that “the promise of a $15 minium wage falls flat when you’re unable to work more than 10 hours a week … and when you’re unable to know how many hours you’re going to work next week.”
Employers found to have violated the law would be assessed civil penalties, starting with $500 per aggrieved worker for the first violation. The amount goes up for subsequent violations.
Enforcement of the law would fall to the city’s Office of Labor Standards, which currently has four investigators.
The mayor’s office has said it would push for more investigators during the budget process this fall.