If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you know how daunting the lack of predictability in scheduling and income can be. It’s not unsurprising that schedules are often made available to employees days or even hours before they’re scheduled to work, making it challenging to plan appointments, childcare, transportation and whatever else. Even more challenging are “clopen” shifts where a closing shift is followed by an opening shift, leaving few hours for transportation to and from your home and proper rest.
The majority of people facing the challenges of restaurant work are employed by fast-food businesses, which in New York City alone employ 65,000 people, most of whom are paid hourly.
These changes are a big step in acknowledging that restaurant work is not a mere stepping stone for many and that workplace conditions should be comparable to those of office work, where schedules are not as erratic.
Since taking office in 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio keeps restaurant workers’ rights at the forefront of city legislation. As an extension of the “Fight for $15” campaign, which will gradually increase the minimum wage of hourly workers to $15 an hour by 2019 in New York City and 2021 in the state, the mayor introduced Fair Workweek legislation last month. The legislation will require fast-food employers to make schedules at least two weeks in advance, to be posted in public, with the majority of expected shifts included. Additionally, for any last-minute changes to schedules, increased financial compensation will be required, and shifts requiring employees to work consecutive closing and opening shifts will be addressed.
These changes are a big step in acknowledging that restaurant work is not a mere stepping stone for many and that workplace conditions should be comparable to those of office work, where schedules are not as erratic. For workers who do not know their schedule in advance, making arrangements for trustworthy childcare on short notice can come at a cost. With women making up the majority of the fast-food workforce, they are all too often faced with the choice between working a day or caring for a child, as the financial benefit of a day’s work is generally undermined by the cost of childcare.
Similarly, if a worker has another job or attends school, unknown schedules can interfere with other aspects of their lives. As Department of Consumer Affairs commissioner Lorelei Salas noted, “How can anyone build a stable family life, further their education, work an often necessary second job, or simply plan their day-to-day lives when the days and times they are expected to work are in constant flux? Having reliable work schedules is essential for our workforce to be able to count on their paychecks and to plan healthy lives.”
Leading the charge on these initiatives is the newly created Office of Labor Policy and Standards (OLPS), housed by the Department of Consumer Affairs. The OLPS is the agency that enforces “Paid Sick Leave” laws as well as initiatives like accommodating pregnant employees and “Commuter Benefits” for businesses with more than 20 full-time employees; it will also be this office that pushes the “Fair Workweek” legislation forward.
Over the next few months, Mayor de Blasio, the NYC City Council, labor and advocacy groups and local businesses will be working together to finalize legislation regarding scheduling, “clopen” shifts and compensation for last-minute schedule changes. The changes, so far, are widely welcomed by the food and service workers who are grateful for the support of fair treatment and compensation.