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The Fight for a Fair Workweek

Could the fight for a fair workweek be the next big labor struggle? Some think so. Cities like San Francisco and Washington D.C. have already passed related legislation mandating that employers give certain hourly workers advance notice of their schedule, among other considerations.
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Here’s what you need to know about the state of the fight for a fair workweek in 2017, and what it could mean for you down the road.

1. A good job means more than just good pay.

Fair pay isn’t the only issue labor laws are meant to address. Other matters affect workers just as much, like working conditions, for example. But, there is another aspect of working life that has a big impact on hourly workers – scheduling. For many employees, irregular hours cause complications and challenges that higher minimum wage laws just don’t address.

“It really wreaks havoc on people’s non-work lives,” Susan Lambert who is a professor at the University of Chicago who’s studied part-time work told The Nation. “It’s been wonderful to see increases in the minimum wage, but that’s only one side. Scheduling legislation goes hand-in-hand with the minimum wage.”

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2. The fight for a fair workweek isn’t new.

Fights over scheduling go way back to the 1800s. During the earlier part of the century, workers fought hard for a 10-hour workday, but by the later part of the century they’d begun to push for eight. The struggle for the eight-hour day wasn’t easy, but in the end the legislation that resulted from the movement changed workers’ lives forever.

The same can be said for other work norms we tend to take for granted, such as the five-day workweek. Thanks to the labor movement, things have changed considerably. In the later part of the 19th century, manufacturing workers averaged about 100 hours of work a week. If they didn’t wish to work that much, workers’ only option was to find another job.

3. Fair-scheduling legislation gained ground in 2016.

Although these kinds of initiatives have been around for some time, fair-scheduling legislation made progress last year. San Francisco has had fair-workweek legislation on the books since 2014. New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he’d support fair-scheduling legislation for fast-food workers in September. A week later, Seattle passed  “secure scheduling” laws which, among other things mandates workers be notified of their schedules at least 14 days in advance. In San Jose, California voters approved legislation that mandates employers to offer more hours to part-time staff before hiring additional workers.

4. The fight will continue.

No matter what happens on the federal level, the recent rise of demonstrations and political activism suggests that labor struggles like the Fight for 15 and the Fair Workweek Initiative will continue in the months and years to come.

“If we saw anything in this last election, it’s that cities and states are the bright spots now,” Jennifer Lin, deputy director of EBASE told The Nation. “The national level was pretty devastating for low-wage workers in general this year. But at the local level we’re doubling down.”

 Tell Us What You Think

How have scheduling issues impacted your life? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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