Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove unverified data regarding the number of full-service restaurants that were impacted by Seattle’s secure scheduling ordinance.
OLYMPIA — Washington state could follow Seattle in passing a bill mandating that certain store and restaurant workers are given at least two-weeks notice of their schedules and at least 10-hour rests between closing and opening shifts.
Senate Bill 5717, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, is geared toward reducing burnout and protecting workers who may have to balance child care or other responsibilities with work.
At public testimony last week, Saldaña, who introduced the legislation last year, said that after conversations with business owners, it became “very clear that [they] were not going to say yes or be supportive.”
Many of those who testified spoke of burnout due to “clopening shifts,” when employees are asked to work a closing shift followed by an early-morning opening shift a few hours later.
Clare Thomas of Seattle told lawmakers that before the city passed its secure scheduling ordinance in 2016, she would be given her schedule three days in advance, and would be asked to work back-to-back “clopening shifts.”
“Essentially I would not be able to see my 1-year-old daughter for three days,” Thomas said.
One man told the committee that while he was experiencing homelessness in Bremerton, the Starbucks where he worked would give him his schedule two days in advance. A secured scheduling law would have given him the predictability necessary to find stable housing, he said.
Brian Hoorn, a retail worker from Bellingham, testified that unpredictable schedules and last-minute changes have caused financial turmoil, and have alienated him from friends and family.
“I know secure scheduling is feasible because I’ve worked for employers who have done it,” Hoorn said.
Seattle’s secure scheduling ordinance, which cited research that “the lowest income workers face the most irregular schedules,” was widely recognized as complicated and difficult for employers to implement. Some employers required entirely new software to schedule shifts, and many businesses complained about new restrictions and increased compensation owed to employees whose schedules are changed last-minute.
A University of Washington study found that the Seattle law, a year after implementation, was effective in providing workers with their schedules in a timely manner. Additionally, the number of employees who were paid extra for sudden shift changes more than doubled.
In 2016, a major opponent of the city ordinance was the Full-Service Workers Alliances. FSWA is opposed to a statewide bill as well, arguing that restaurants often can’t predict customer flow. FSWA co-founders Simone Barron and Sean Beavers urged lawmakers to exempt full-service restaurants because their customer flow may be affected by game results or weather, and therefore rely on call-on and call-off shifts.
Several restaurant workers similarly testified against the bill, saying flexibility is a benefit of working in food service.
Like Seattle’s ordinance, Sen. Saldaña’s bill would only affect full-service restaurants with 40 or more locations worldwide, and would exempt temporary service contractors and any business with less than 250 employees.
SB 5717 has not yet been scheduled for a committee vote.