December 8, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – City Council Members, fast food workers, Local 32 BJ SEIU members, and community groups rallied on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday, December 6th, as the hour grew near when Council Members would introduce a package of laws designed to help and protect NYC fast food and other retail workers.
The bills will be introduced a week after thousands of minimum-wage workers took action in 340 cities nationwide, and dozens were arrested in an action in Lower Manhattan to mark the four-year anniversary of the Fight for $15 and the first fast food strike in New York City.
The bills are aimed at giving workers more regular scheduling, and access to more hours, as well as enabling fast food workers to set up a non-profit organization that would advocate for them and help their communities. Council Members Brad Lander, Corey Johnson and Debi Rose will introduce the scheduling bills under the umbrella of the Fair Work Week for NYC. Highlights include a two weeks’ notice of a schedule change, a penalty for changes made paid to workers, the provision that more hours are to be offered to existing workers who want them – rather than to new part-time workers – providing a pathway to a full-time job, penalties for the practice of scheduling workers to close and also reopen a store in the next shift, bans on on-call scheduling, and establishes a process for employees to seek flexible work arrangements and establishes the right to flexible work arrangements in certain emergency situations.
Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland will introduce the Fast Food Empowerment Act, which requires employers to allow workers to give a voluntary deduction from their paycheck to a not-for-profit organization. It includes anti-retaliation protection for workers, including penalties for employer violations.
Alvin Major, a KFC worker who has worked for 5 years at the company, told LaborPress, “I’m here today because we have to address the issues, such as scheduling. Today, I left work at 2 a.m. and I was supposed to be at work again at 9 a.m. We should have at least a ten hour break between shifts. As for wages, we will have a $15/hr minimum in three to four years, but of course all prices such as food and rent will be up by then. We’ve been fighting in this movement for about four years. We want the right to have an organization and have workers make a contribution. We want protection against retaliation. People have been fired for protesting and asking for more, their hours are cut to try and force them to quit.”
Chantal Walker, a worker at Papa John’s in Brooklyn, said she had worked there for fifteen years on and off. On the steps of City Hall, she led the crowd in a chant, “When workers are under attack, what do we do? Stand up and fight back!” She said, “Our employers give us part-time hours even when we want full-time work. They just hire more part-timers to fill the shifts. I want more work so I can pay my bills and build a brighter future. We all got dreams! Right now I’m just hoping to make it to the end of this month.”
Kyle Bragg, Secretary-Treasure of Local 32 BJ, SEIU (The Service Employees International Union), whose 70,000 New York City members have been supporting the fast food worker’s Fight for $15, told LaborPress, “These pieces of legislation will improve work conditions for fast food and retail workers. They focus on scheduling and providing a stable schedule. It’s very difficult to support yourself to work, go to school, and care for kids when your schedule is in flux all the time, when you can be called in or not. They will also provide opportunities for workers to access more hours, and to have an organization so they can come together and have a place and organization to help them to fight for their rights and other social justice issues.”
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito cited the recent election results, and said “Workers will be under attack. We’re proud to introduce this legislation. It will help improve working conditions by increasing predictability. It will establish advance scheduling and regulate the practice of requiring employees to work back-to-back shifts, and prevent retaliations against workers who advocate for their rights.”
Council Member Brad Lander cited the courage of workers “who risk their jobs,” and said he was “proud to be a part of this.” He asked, “How can you build a stable life if you don’t have a stable work schedule?”
Council Member Debi Rose spoke of the privilege many have in adjusting their schedule in case of a family emergency, and cited the lack of a similar protection currently for the workers. “No one should be fired when life happens,” she said.