Fair Work Week Supporters With Signs

Oregon Passes Groundbreaking Workers Rights Law

Unpredictable work schedules can make it impossible for retail and restaurant workers – especially working moms – to arrange child care and make ends meet, but that may be about to change for workers in Oregon.

Fair scheduling is one of the feminist and labor movement’s next big fights. If you’ve ever worked a retail job, you know that many employers saddle low-wage employees with unpredictable or on-call work schedules. Here’s how it works: employers can change retail workers’ hours based on predicted demand, with little notice, and often creating chaos in workers lives.

As Vox points out, the retail, healthcare, and restaurant workers most affected “tend to be young women of color who have children at home.” One in six Oregon workers reported having less than 24 hours notice before their shifts. If you have to come into work on late notice, that means scrambling to find childcare; if your shift is cancelled, that means fewer hours, less pay, and the risk you won’t be able to make ends meet that month.

And unfair scheduling can depress future earnings: if you have to work a wildly unpredictable schedule to hold down your job, you can’t reliably take a second job or go to school part-time: in fact, a University of Oregon survey found that many workers with low-wage jobs are forced to “give up furthering their education.”

Oregon’s on track to change that: their state legislature just became the first in the country to pass a Fair Work Week bill. The bill, which gathered bipartisan support, would require companies with more than 500 employees worldwide to give their workers work schedules with at least one week of notice starting next year, and two weeks’ by 2020.

The law would also protect workers from retaliation for simply asking for preferred shifts (shockingly, this kind of retaliation is A Real Thing) and establish that workers have a right to a 10-hour break between shifts (with the option to voluntarily agree to a shorter rest period for extra pay).

Oregon Governor Kate Brown (who, side note, is openly bi, a self-identified “radical feminist,” and so cool) is expected to sign the bill soon.

Oregon’s on track to be the first state to pass a Fair Work Week law, but they won’t be the last: According to Vox, Connecticut, California, North Carolina, and Massachusetts are all considering fair scheduling legislation. Cities are leading too: Seattle, New York, and San Francisco have passed Fair Scheduling legislation in recent years. New York and San Francisco even require employers who change workers’ schedules at the last minute to pay their employees.

Want to help? Contact your reps and say it’s time to support working families.

Image Credit: AP Photo

Sejal Singh is a columnist at Feministing, where she writes about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice. Sejal is a Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for Know Your IX, a national campaign to end gender-based violence in schools, where she has led several state and federal campaigns for student survivors' civil rights. In the past, Sejal led LGBT rights campaigns for the Center for American Progress. Today, she is a student at Harvard Law School and a frequent speaker on LGBTQ rights and civil rights in schools.

Sejal Singh is a law student and columnist at Feministing, writing about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice.

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