BCK FILE--The Los Angeles City Council has introduced a Fair Workweek measure that could mandate two-week advance schedule notice to hourly workers in a move that could impact around 70,000 retail workers in the city.
Los Angeles would join New York City, San Jose, Seattle, San Francisco, Emeryville, California, and the states of Oregon and New Hampshire in passing fair workweek laws.
Under the ordinance, retailers with at least 300 employees worldwide would be required to provide employees with two weeks’ advance notice of days and hours. Employees could request schedule changes and would have the right to turn down hours. In addition, stores could not require sales staff to work back to back closing and opening shifts. The ordinance reads, “Retail workers have unpredictable, last-minute, and fluctuating workweeks over which they have no control--making it difficult to predict their income, make time for school, or care for children.”
According to the Economic Policy Institute, an independent think tank, fair workweek laws passed by other local and state governments currently benefit over 1.8 million workers. In addition to providing employees with more stability in their schedules, some laws require employers to offer part-time workers the ability to expand their hours before hiring new employees. New Hampshire, Vermont, and San Francisco have also passed “right to request” statutes that allow all or most private-sector employees to request scheduling accommodations.
With increasing competition from online retailers, brick and mortar retailers have often relied on last minute scheduling, dependent on sales. However, providing employees with steady hours can increase productivity. In 2015-2016, Gap, Inc., along with researchers from University of Chicago, University of California, and University of North Carolina tested whether providing employees with more stable schedules would increase profits.
What they found was the 19 Gap stores who offered sales staff more predictable schedules boosted revenue by $2.9 million over the 8-month period. The stores also experienced a 7% increase in sales. Productivity increased by 5% and there was greater retention of experienced sales associates. Providing a more stable work schedule for employees also increases productivity, while decreasing absenteeism.
According to research published in American Sociological Review, a survey of almost 28,000 employees at the largest 80 retail and food services companies in 2016-2017 showed that only 39% of workers surveyed had a regular work schedule, with hours fluctuating by as much as 32% weekly. Nearly half regularly worked back to back closing and opening shifts and 16% reported receiving schedules with fewer than three days notice. The employees with frequent cancelled shifts, on-call shifts, and close-opening shifts said they had greater rates of distress, poor sleep, and unhappiness.
Similar legislation has failed to be passed in the State Legislature after the Chamber of Commerce pushed back, calling the bill a “job killer.” However, studies show that providing employees with a more stable schedule has increased productivity and employee satisfaction. Los Angeles should join the cities that have passed Fair Workweek measures.
(Beth Cone Kramer is a professional writer living in the Los Angeles area. She covers Resistance Watch and other major issues for CityWatch.)