THE D.C. Council last month pulled back on plans to vote on a measure that would dictate how businesses in the city schedule their employees. We would like to think this was a sign of the council finally coming to its senses about what it demands of companies that try to operate in the city. But the fact that this cockamamie idea got as far as it did — with its author promising he’ll be back for another try — shows the troubling tendency of local lawmakers to get behind policies they think will burnish their progressive credentials with little regard for the real-world consequences.
Council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large) sponsored the bill that would dictate the amount of advance notice major employers must give workers when scheduling shifts. It made it through committee, but Mr. Orange withdrew it from a scheduled vote; he said he needed to work with council members who had some questions and hoped to have it on the council’s July 12 agenda. The measure, opposed by business interests on the sensible grounds it interferes with their ability to best run their operations, is patterned after a law, the only one of its kind in the country, enacted in San Francisco.
What makes the measure so alarming is that it would be just one more obligation layered on those who do business in the District. The past three years have seen a burst of new laws requiring employers to pay higher salaries, provide new benefits and adhere to new regulations. They arrive at the same time the city is contemplating putting an additional tax on employers to give D.C. paid family leave; early proposals would provide for the most generous (i.e., expensive) leave program in the country.
The thinking, one critic of the council told us, seems to be that “if they have it in San Francisco, we should have it here.” That, of course, ignores the reality that, unlike San Francisco, the District adjoins two states with whom it competes. The more the District stacks the deck against businesses, the more likely it is that companies — and the taxes they pay and the jobs they provide — will head to the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. At the very least, new companies contemplating a move to Washington will probably think long and hard about locating here for worry of what will next be demanded of them. Unfortunately, the council has given them good reason to pause.