Fast-food workers, retail clerks and hospital orderlies nationwide sometimes learn their hours on a day’s notice, making it harder for them to secure child care or plan their lives. This week, Oregon took a major step to ease that challenge, advancing a bill that requires large companies to give employees a schedule at least a week in advance.
The measure, which Gov. Kate Brown (D) is expected to sign, would make Oregon the first state in the country to adopt such worker protections.
“Now working people in Oregon can make plans for childcare or doctor's appointments or education, without the curveball of a sudden scheduling change throwing their lives off balance,” Hannah Taube, spokeswoman for the Oregon Working Families Party, said in a statement. “We hope it sets an example for other states.”
Under the bill, which sailed through the state's House on Thursday and was approved by the Senate a week before, retail firms, food companies, hotels and hospitals that have more than 500 employees must start giving workers seven days' notice of their shifts by July 2018 and two weeks' notice by July 2020.
Workers must also receive a minimum of 10 hours of rest between shifts or they will qualify for time-and-a-half pay.
As employees celebrated the move, some business advocacy groups argued it promotes government overreach. The National Retail Federation, the country’s largest retail trade association, opposes such scheduling mandates, asserting that companies need to be able to act quickly on staffing to respond to unpredictable fluctuations in demand.
“Every retailer has unique business processes, and every employee has unique needs,” the group says on its website. “Retailers need flexibility to adapt to changing conditions in a store, and they don’t need the government telling them how to do what they do best — run their businesses.”
Opponents say such government interference could cost jobs by making it difficult for employers to make last-minute tweaks to schedules.
But in blue Oregon, the bill garnered bipartisan support.
Its passage followed a wave of similar efforts to advance service-industry scheduling mandates in reliably Democratic cities.
Chicago city council members proposed a measure this week that would require companies to give workers two weeks’ notice of their schedules. Last month, New York adopted a similar rule. San Francisco, Seattle and Emeryville, Calif., have also passed scheduling mandates.
Now Connecticut, North Carolina, Ohio, California and Massachusetts are considering following Oregon's lead.
“City after city across America has passed fair workweek reforms — and now, states are joining the fight,” Carrie Gleason, director of the Fair Workweek Initiative at the left-leaning Center for Popular Democracy, said in a statement. “Oregon might be the first to break the dam, but it will be far from the last.”
For worker advocates, Oregon’s move marks a progressive victory at a time when the Department of Labor appears to be shifting its focus away from expanding employee protections to knocking out regulations the agency deems job-killing.
Earlier this month, the Labor Department scrapped Obama-era guidelines designed to protect franchise workers, many of whom are employed in the food and hospitality industries. And this week, President Trump set the National Labor Relations Board up for a Republican majority, nominating two conservative attorneys to serve on the agency tasked with protecting private-sector workers’ rights.
Labor policy analysts expect the board to begin rolling back rules that allow employees to unionize more quickly.
For Kaleigh Game, 26, who works at a restaurant in Lake Oswego, Ore., the scheduling measure comes as a relief. She is a single mother, who has worked in the service industry for years and has long worried about being able to make money while caring for her 3-year-old daughter.
“I never knew when I could get time off of work to pick her up, or when I had to ask my mom, who lives an hour away, to pick her up,” she said. “It was a complete mess.”