May Day is more than just a celebration of spring. It’s also International Workers’ Day – a chance to think about how we can make sure that hard work turns into fair pay and a fair opportunity for a decent life.
The economy has been humming along nicely for people who are already at the top. But for more than a generation now, things haven’t gone so great for most workers. Wages are flat. Pensions are gone. Unions have been gutted. Health care and child care costs have exploded.
But I want to talk to you today about one problem that keeps millions of workers up at night: unpredictable schedules.
Too many retail, restaurant, and fast food workers don’t find out what their schedules will be, and how many hours they’ll get paid for, until the very last minute. Half of low-wage workers say they have little or no say over the hours they are scheduled to work. 20-30% are in jobs where they can be called into work at the last minute.
That’s why I’ve introduced the Schedules That Work Act to cut back on some of the most unstable, unpredictable scheduling practices. Join me and sign our petition to support America’s workers with fair schedules.
Just think: Without a stable work schedule, how could you plan for anything in advance? How can you schedule childcare, doctors’ visits, parent-teacher conferences, or classes where you can learn new skills and get ready for a better-paying job?
And how can you set a family budget if you don’t know if you’ll be paid for 10 hours or 20 hours next week? You couldn’t.
Put yourself in one of these workers’ shoes (and remember, your feet are probably sore):
- A single mom who doesn’t find out that her hours are being canceled until she’s already arranged for daycare and driven halfway across town to show up to work.
- Someone who wants to go to school to get an education but can’t ask for a more predictable schedule without getting fired just for asking.
- A worker who is told to wait around on-call for hours with no guarantee of work hours, without getting anything for her time.
You’re overstretched, you’re stressed, and you just need a little relief. A little more security. A little more of a sense that you have a schedule you can predict, and wages you can count on.
That’s where the Schedules That Work Act comes in. Employers can still do their scheduling, and they can make changes as needed, but they should have some ground rules: they should provide schedules two weeks in advance. No more retaliation against workers who ask for schedule changes. Workers told to wait on call for hours should get something for their time.
This is about basic fairness – and basic human decency.
I take this issue personally. When my daddy had a heart attack and was out of work for a long time, my mother got a minimum wage job with a regularly scheduled work week – answering the phones at Sears. That job was our whole family’s lifeline. It saved our home, and it saved our family. It’s the reason I’m where I am today.
That’s why I celebrate workers on International Workers’ Day. Workers have always had to fight for a level playing field, from a minimum wage to basic workplace safety to a 40-hour work week.
Now it’s time to fight again – for some basic fairness in scheduling. If you agree that people should be able to know when they’ll work, and whether they’ll work 10 hours or 30 hours, then we need to fight for it.