March 6, 2017
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – Just before a Friday, March 3rd New York City Council hearing at City Hall, workers from the fast and retail industries and others gathered on the steps to urge passage of legislation that would give them vital rights in their fight for fair scheduling practices.
They were joined by union leaders and politicians, among them Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Tish James, DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas, Councilmembers Julissa Fererras-Copeland, Mark Treyger, Carlos Menchaca, Fernando Cabrera, and CM and Labor Committee Chair I. Daneek Miller. Other groups such as Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, Center for Popular Democracy, A Better Balance, were also represented.
Three scheduling bills have been introduced in the City Council that would require fast-food stores to give workers two weeks’ notice of their schedules, and pay a penalty to workers if schedules are changed at the last minute, give current employees more hours before hiring new part-time workers to fill open shifts, and place restrictions on “clopenings,” the practice of requiring workers who close a store one night to come back a few hours later to open it the next morning. Another bill would prohibit “on-call” scheduling in the retail industry, which requires workers to be available for hours even if they have not been scheduled to work and won’t get paid. A fifth bill would give workers the right to request a flexible schedule without fear of retaliation for making the request.
Workers at the rally spoke eloquently of their struggles and detailed how the current practices have made planning for child care, doctor’s visits, and schooling all but impossible. Janika Reyes of the Retail Action Network broke down in tears as she described how during her mother’s bout with cancer, she had to make the wrenching choice of choosing to be with her ill parent or keeping her job. “We have lives – see us,” she said. Because of the on-call scheduling practice in her job, she had to be available for shifts even during those times her mother needed her desperately.
Fast-food worker Harmony Higgins, who works at Chipotle, is expecting her first baby, and because of the same practice, is unable to schedule doctor’s appointments. When she does take time off, she has to find her own replacements. And, she said, the manager began degrading her hours in retaliation, to the point where, “Now, if I get four hours a day, I’m lucky.”
Jose Sanchez, who works at a Domino’s Pizza in Washington Heights, said through an interpreter that although he knows the hour he must start, he never knows when the shift will end. When he talked to the manager about it, his hours were also cut. Now, he and other employees at the location have gone on strike.
Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU, told the crowd, “Fast-food workers sparked the fight for fifteen dollars an hour five years ago. Now, in New York, California, Seattle and other parts of the country, we are on the path to that goal. Fast-food workers, retail workers, are aligned with the unions. Labor stands with the workers of this city, for scheduling fair to working families. Today, voices of the workers will be heard.”
RWDSU President Stuart Applebaum said, “Our union is committed to raising job standards across industries and occupations. On-call scheduling is invasive and wrong. Today’s hearings are a critical first step in helping workers gain control of our own lives and have the ability to earn a living. Together we urge the City Council to pass Intro 1387, which bans on-call, immediately.”
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer drew a laugh when he said, “It’s time to put some beef on these burgers,” and Public Advocate Tish James initiated chants of “Pass the Bill,” when she told the assembled workers, “To the franchise owners – if you want to see us smile, pass the bill. If you want to have it your way, pass the bill.”
The Council will also hear testimony on the Fast-Food Worker Empowerment Act, which would require employers to honor workers’ requests to deduct voluntary contributions from their paycheck to a not-for-profit organization that could fight for the workers, their families and their communities.
The bills all have a majority of council members signed on as co-sponsors in the City Council.