NYC Fair Scheduling Laws Advance Workers’ Rights, Lift Spirits Nationwide

By Liz Ben-Ishai

Economic and social justice will not wait. That was the defiant message the New York City Council sent on Wednesday when it passed some of the country’s strongest labor protections, guaranteeing access to fair schedules for thousands of workers in the nation’s largest city. The victory came on the heels of President Trump’s budget proposal, which seeks to undermine federal labor law enforcement as it eviscerates the nation’s social safety net. In a rebuke to that threat from the president, the City Council passed legislation that will lift up low-income people, instead of holding them back.

As progressives and anti-poverty advocates fight back on the national political front, the workers, organizers, advocates, and policymakers who fought for this important legislation lifted the spirits of both New Yorkers and friends of economic security nationwide. The laws will ensure that NYC fast food workers receive two weeks of advance notice of their schedules, compensation for last-minute schedule changes, sufficient rest between shifts (protection from so-called “clopenings,” when employees work consecutive closing and opening shifts), and access to full-time hours.

The new laws will help workers like Violeta, a McDonald’s worker whose story is captured in a video from the Fight for $15 campaign. Violeta’s erratic schedule has made it a constant struggle to care for her seriously ill husband. She is not alone. In a recent study, the Community Service Society of New York found that more than 80 percent of NYC restaurant workers received less than two weeks’ notice of their schedules, and 40 percent said their hours fluctuated from week to week. Low-income workers in NYC reported that their volatile work schedules led to economic hardships, such as inability to pay the rent and needing to skip meals.

New York joins cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and Emeryville, CA in passing a comprehensive set of fair scheduling protections. Other cities and states have also passed laws to address work schedule volatility, involuntary part-time work, and other scheduling challenges. NYC’s scheduling laws will be enforced by the recently created Office of Labor Policy and Standards, one of a growing number of local labor standards enforcement agencies being set up around the country. The trend toward strengthening enforcement of local labor laws reflects the growing number of cities that are passing minimum wage, paid sick days, and now fair scheduling laws. These local labor standards agencies are particularly important as the Trump Administration seeks to weaken the U.S. Department of Labor, imperiling the safety and economic security of all workers, but particularly low-income workers.

The passage of NYC’s fair scheduling laws highlights the need to continue our focus on forward movement in the struggle for working families’ economic security, as we fight back against the egregious initiatives from the White House. CLASP commends 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU), A Better Balance, Center for Popular Democracy, Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), Make the Road, Community Service Society of New York, and all other individuals, policymakers, and organizations that fought to make this victory possible.

Read CLASP’s testimony in support of NYC’s fair scheduling laws and on the state of workers’ rights workers in NYC.

Listen to CLASP’s webinar, “Fair Scheduling on the Coasts,” featuring NYC Councilmember Brad Lander discussing fair scheduling.