Surprise, Surprise! The Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Seem to Like Secure Scheduling

City reporter Erica C. Barnett reports on The C Is for Crank that Seattle’s Chamber of Commerce is preparing its membership for the secure scheduling law that our City Council is discussing. Maud Daudon, the president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, sent an e-mail that included the following appeal to member businesses:

The Seattle City Council has started exploring legislation that would restrict how employers schedule their shift workers. We are closely monitoring the process, and have consistently shared the message that Seattle must proceed thoughtfully: scheduling is highly complex and a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach will create more problems for employees. Furthermore, many businesses already have processes in place to directly meet the expectations of their employees. If you would like to share how you’ve adopted scheduling practices that work well for your employees, please contact Meadow Johnson, our senior vice president of external relations.

Who has the time to write all these tired cookie-cutter metaphors? (Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Who has the time to write all these tired cookie-cutter metaphors? (Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

First of all, there is no law yet. The City Council is discussing secure scheduling with workers, employers, and labor experts, so this condemnation of a “one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach” is way too premature and constructed on nothing. In fact, based on the Chamber’s predictably negative responses to paid sick leave (PDF) and the $15 minimum wage, I think the cookie-cutter allegations of cookie-cutterism are the real cookie-cutter approach here.

And the assertion that “many businesses already have processes in place” is a curious one; just because many employers pay more than the minimum wage doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have minimum wage laws. In fact, by raising the minimum wage, we’re putting less of a burden on those good employers who pay more than their low-wage competitors. So if some businesses do a good job of scheduling, why wouldn’t they want, or why would they care, if employers with exploitative scheduling practices had to follow secure scheduling laws?

The business response to Seattle’s secure scheduling investigation has really been quite underwhelming. When councilmembers Lorena González and Lisa Herbold asked for business input into the process, they replied by saying that no laws were necessary, and that supplying a secure schedule for employees would be “one more straw that may soon break the camel’s back.” We hear these threats every time minimum-wage increases or paid sick leave laws are mentioned, and yet the camel’s back remains proudly unbroken.

The Chamber has a real opportunity here to help shape Seattle’s secure scheduling law, but they’re responding with the same cookie-cutter threats that they always drag out in cases like this. Just a thought: maybe it’s time for the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce to stop fighting a proposal that doesn’t exist yet and to start bringing a good-faith effort to the secure scheduling conversation?

(To learn more about secure scheduling, please check out the fifth episode of our podcast, The Other Washington.)

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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.