Lorena González and Lisa Herbold Begin the Push for Secure Scheduling in Seattle

This morning, Working Washington hosted a forum with service workers and Seattle city councilmembers in their downtown offices to discuss the need for secure scheduling laws in Seattle. (I wrote about the importance of secure scheduling yesterday.) The personal testimonials from the employees of restaurant and coffee shop chains would be alarming for anyone who hasn’t worked in the service industry. They talked of “clopening” shifts, requiring workers to close the store and then turn around and come back to open the store at 6 am, and irregular schedules that leave very little time for employees to do anything else in their lives.

Some of the more shocking testimonials:

  • Grant, a Starbucks employee who left the business last year to work at a car dealership because “what I used to call a love/hate relationship with the service industry, I later realized was an abusive one,” says his schedule was beyond erratic, sometimes veering from 40 hours one week to 8 hours the next. “There wasn’t any way of predicting it,” he explained. “No matter how hard I worked, no matter how much pride I took in my work,” none of his efforts were rewarded with a consistent schedule.
  • Crystal, a mother of a newborn and nine year-old, works at Domino’s Pizza. “Our workweek begins Monday and we usually don’t see our schedules until Sunday night, so it’s really hard to plan and find childcare,” she says. Her work schedule vacillates between 20 and 40 hours a week, with no advance notice to how many hours she’ll be working.
  • The workers were joined by new city councilmembers Lorena González and Lisa Herbold, who vowed to take action on secure scheduling. “I think it’s good for workers and particularly good for women,” González said. “I see this as a gender equity issue. It’s about empowering women financially.” She said she knows about the mistreatment of employee schedules from personal experience, both from working in banks, daycare facilities, and fast food restaurants and also from working as a lawyer for employees who were victims of wage theft.

    Herbold explained to the workers that she, too, understood the difficulties they face. “I was a low income working mom in the restaurant industry while going to college,” she said. “I had to choose between school and work.” She said “Lorena and I are a great team to work on these issues because of our personal experiences.”

    González warned that the path to secure scheduling might not be easy. “It’s part of your responsibility to keep us honest and to push us” to stay on task, she told the workers. But she said she was inspired by “how much you love your work and how much you love your jobs.” The workers were not interested in handouts or special treatment, she said, they just wanted to make sure they could be the most effective, efficient employees possible. Ultimately, she said, secure scheduling would be good for everyone: “Treating workers well is good for business.”

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    Paul Constant
    Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.