Self-Selecting Poll Blows Up in Restaurant Lobby’s Face

"Of course you realize, this means war..."

“Of course you realize, this means war…”

When reading about the results of surveys, you should always, always, always consider the source. Self-selecting surveys—most of which take the form of those online Survey Monkey-style polls you see sometimes on Facebook—are basically meaningless. What they tell us is this: an organization wanted to see a certain set of results, and so that organization pushed its polls out to users who were likely to give them the result they want.

With that in mind, our friends at Working Washington uncovered something very interesting in a survey led by the Seattle Restaurant Alliance. The survey is being used to argue against the secure scheduling legislation currently under consideration by the Seattle City Council, but Working Washington discovered that the poll actually made a pretty great case for secure scheduling. To wit: nearly a third of the poll’s anonymous respondents complained about not getting enough notice of their schedules. Nearly a quarter said they wanted more hours on the job, and nearly a quarter complained about a lack of flexibility in their schedules.

Of course, the Seattle Restaurant Alliance wants to paint this as a “glass-half-full” kind of situation, but if you look at it by letter grades, a 75 percent score is a borderline C in most schools, and 66 percent would be an D. And, as Working Washington points out, this is a survey which is expected to be about as positive as humanly possible. What would a truly independent polling outfit discover if they were allowed to survey Seattle restaurant workers?

But even so, none of these results are an argument against secure scheduling. The Seattle Restaurant Alliance wants us to believe that most employers are great at scheduling their employees. Okay. Then those restaurants should have no problem with new secure scheduling laws, then! If their employees receive their schedules two weeks in advance, and if the employers don’t employ inhumane on-call practices to keep their workers on the hook for hours they may never actually work, then the employers are doing everything right and the law won’t affect them.

Secure scheduling practices are intended to watch out for the dishonorable employers who monopolize their workers’ time—even the time they don’t spend at work—and make it impossible to experience ordinary events that you or I might take for granted: the opportunity to enjoy a hobby, or to volunteer for a nonprofit we support, or eat a meal with family, or even take on a second job. If the people who work for the businesses behind the Seattle Restaurant Alliance are already enjoying these basic human rights, surely the Seattle Restaurant Alliance won’t mind if we ensure that a few bad employers are forced to do the same?

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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.