Retail Working America Members Win Changes by Standing Together

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Minnesota has made a name for itself as a major hub of the retail industry – look no further than Target and Best Buy, both headquartered in the state. Yet, even as big retail stores reap billions in profits from eager shoppers, retail workers haven’t shared in those gains.

Now, that’s changing. By joining Working America, retail workers are gaining a stronger voice on the job and demanding corporate accountability. In 2014, workers took action to raise the state’s minimum wage, a low $6.15 an hour, and won. The new $9.50 base hourly wage takes the state from having one of the lowest minimum wages in the country to one of the highest when it fully kicks in by 2016, giving more than 325,000 Minnesotans a much-needed raise.

Retail workers from Working America are also joining together to work directly with their co-workers to change their specific workplaces and solve problems on the job.

Last fall, workers from a Twin Cities mall started talking about how they could win changes at their job.  Associates faced low wages, and those working part time lacked health care. Workers faced racial discrimination, no paid sick days and safety challenges. One worker was assaulted by a customer and sustained a concussion while at work. Despite all this, managers had done little to address workers’ concerns, and morale on the job was low.

The workers wanted to do something about it.

The associates met regularly to set priorities and strategize about how to make things better. They circulated a petition calling for paid sick days and distributed surveys to see what co-workers wanted in a better workplace. After building support throughout the store, the members brought their concerns directly to management. They talked with supervisors and directors about the problems they and their co-workers faced and how they were coming together to address these challenges.

By standing united, they saw results.

Management announced shortly after the meeting that workers would be receiving wage increases, paid sick days and that benefits would be added for part-time workers.

Workers at this mall in Minnesota made it happen. They won needed improvements and gained a newfound confidence by talking with one another and uniting for a collective voice. We still have much to do. Workers at the mall continue to face low wages, safety concerns and other problems, but the group showed that by coming together, workers can create a better workplace.

The fight continues to give all retail workers the kinds of initial gains made at one Twin Cities mall. Retail workers are talking with state lawmakers about the need for paid sick days, and they’re leading the call for fair scheduling policies at the state and local level, testifying at a recent hearing.

To get involved in the fight for a better Minnesota for retail workers, contact Working America Minnesota.

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Image via mo1229 on Flickr

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San Francisco Leads the Way on Fair Scheduling with Retail Workers Bill of Rights

Photo courtesy Jobs With Justice

The city of San Francisco has taken a big step in the right direction by passing the Retail Workers Bill of Rights, which will end abusive scheduling practices and improve work environments for more than 40,000 workers at 1,250 locations in the city. The bill still has to be signed by the mayor, but workers and advocates are confident it will become law. By taking this big step, nearly half of the city’s workers in the related industries will have their lives improved.

The new rules will apply to retail stores, hotels and restaurants with at least 20 employees and at least 20 or more locations worldwide.The proposal would require employers to:

  • Tell workers their schedules at least two weeks in advance.
  • Pay workers extra if they change the schedule with less than 24 hours notice.
  • Offer extra hours, if available, to current part-time workers before hiring new workers.

Additionally, if a company is sold, current employees who have worked for six months or longer are guaranteed to work for at least 90 days. Employers also are prohibited from discriminating against part-time workers when it comes to pay or promotions.

Congressional Democrats have offered a similar bill that probably won’t move forward in a Republican Congress. The Schedules That Work Act would:

  • Protect workers against employer retaliation for schedule requests.
  • Require employers to use a process for schedule requests that meet the needs of workers, not just the company. In particular, requests that are based on caregiving duties, health conditions, education, training or a second job must be approved, unless there is a legitimate business reason not to approve them.
  • Pay workers for at least four hours if they arrive at work for a shift of at least four hours and are sent home early.
  • Require companies to provide schedules at least two weeks in advance and pay employees extra if schedules change with less than 24 hours notice.
  • Make employers provide extra pay to employees who are scheduled to work non-consecutive shifts on the same day.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Three Overlooked Reasons For Fair Scheduling That You Haven’t Thought Of, Yet

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Every day, thousands of hard-working people are forced to adhere to inconsistent schedules that result in erratic pay and a chaotic home life.

Last week, The New York Times ran a lengthy article on the sophisticated scheduling software used by employers that create schedules that wreak havoc on employees’ lives.

The article is littered with mentions of the specific ways that employers use the software to keep profits high and labor costs low. A lot of the software, for example, provides managers with information on sales patterns that enable them to cut employee hours.

While scheduling software currently, it seems, impedes on employee work hours, creators maintain that it could be used to create “more accommodating core hours.”

While the article primarily focuses on erratic scheduling’s effect on single mothers’ ability to care for their children (a valid concern), we’ve compiled a few of the less-obvious reasons why fair scheduling needs to happen, now.

  • Because the weather shouldn’t dictate your schedule. Unfortunately many retail jobs, despite being based indoors, offer hours that are dependent on the weather. Back in 2012, The New York Times ran an interesting article that put a spotlight on Jamba Juice’s reliance on the weather for its scheduling practices. The company, at least at the time, would schedule more employees on a nice day and cut hours on a rainy one. Aside from Jamba Juice, there are instances of employers sending workers home due to poor weather conditions as well.
  • Because your schedule shouldn’t prevent you from getting an education. Janette Navarro, a barista a Starbucks, told the New York Times that she was forced to put her college classes “on indefinite pause because her shifting hours left her unable to commit to classes.” One of the biggest drawbacks of a mercurial schedule is that it makes it quite difficult for workers to schedule anything else in their lives.
  • Because you should be able to work a second job, if you need to. Many reports indicate that, increasingly, there’s an overwhelming group of part time workers who want full-time work, so it’s no surprise that workers are finding other jobs to supplement their wages. Much like pursuing an education, erratic scheduling keeps workers stagnant, allowing no room for other steady, part time work.

Despite the prevalence of erratic scheduling in the retail industry, Working America has launched campaigns to push for fair scheduling laws in both Minnesota and Illinois.

For more information, email Brianna Halverson at [email protected]

Photo courtesy of Prabowo Restuaji via Flickr.

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We Love How This ‘Frozen’ Star Sang About the Minimum Wage. But There Are 3 Problems With It.

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Kristen Bell, the voice of Princess Anna in the blockbuster Disney hit ‘Frozen’ and dozens of other films, put on a different costume this week to talk about something you wouldn’t expect.

Fans of the humor website Funny or Die were surprised to find a new video of Bell portraying Mary Poppins, the famous fictional British governess. In the video, she is telling her two young wards that she has to quit. Why? She makes minimum wage, and it’s not enough to live on.

“Just a three dollar increase can make a living wage,” she sings to the children. She goes onto use all of Mary Poppins’ tricks and tools–little birds, penguins, and so on–to explain how low wages hurt families, businesses, and consumers alike.

Don’t get us wrong: We love this video, and anything that brings this issue to a broader audience helps in our campaign for fair wages.

But unfortunately, Minimum Wage Mary Poppins is not quite accurate when she says an increase to $10.10, as proposed by Democrats and blocked by Republicans in the Senate earlier this year, would constitute a living wage for most Americans:

$10.10 doesn’t keep up with cost of goods. According to the Economic Policy Institute, increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would lift millions out of poverty, but it would still not reach the level it would be if the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, and would not come close what the minimum wage would be if it had increased with worker productivity.

Real value of the federal minimum wage, 1968–2013 and 2013–2016 under proposed increase to $10.10 by 2016, compared with its value had it grown at the rate of productivity or average worker wages (2013 dollars)

For most Americans, $10.10 doesn’t keep up with the cost of living. While the cost of living varies depending on where you live, $10.10 an hour doesn’t constitute a “living wage” in most areas, particularly if you have one or more dependents.

For example, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a single adult can survive in Arkansas on $7.86 an hour, which is still higher than the current minimum wage in Arkansas, $7.25. However, add a kid into the mix, and that shoots up to $16.37.

In a more expensive area like the District of Columbia, a single adult needs a living wage of $13.65, which nearly doubles with the addition of one child.

All this assumes a 40 hour work week. Think those numbers from MIT look bleak? Well, they are actually extremely optimistic, because they assume the adults in question are working 2,080 hours a year, or 40 hours a week for 52 weeks.

First off, no one should have to work 8 hours a day every single day of the year with no days off. Not only is that inhumane, it ignores events like sickness, family emergencies, and any other of the infinite problems that might keep someone from their 8-hour work day

Second of all, and perhaps less obvious, is that the majority of low-wage workers aren’t getting scheduled for close to 40 hours a week. Not in their dreams.

We talk to hundreds of people every night, many of them retail and service workers, and a consistent theme we hear is that schedules are erratic, unpredictable, and insufficient.

Sometimes it’s because managers don’t want workers to exceed the number of hours that would require them to provide health care. Sometimes it’s an issue of favoritism or retaliation, where a manager will assign a better or worse schedule based on how they feel about an employee. And if you take a second part-time job, you have no assurance that the two schedules will line up, or that you’d be able to juggle the demands of two jobs as they constantly change.

Lastly, thank you Kristen Bell. Despite these few omissions, your collaboration with Funny or Die is hilarious, clever, and shines a bright spotlight on an issue that’s too often overlooked.

For the first time in forever, we have a Disney song that helps the economic facts go down.

To join Working America’s fight for fair wages, text RAISE to 30644.

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11 Ways the ‘Schedules that Work’ Act Would Make the Lives of Working Families Better

11 Ways the 'Schedules that Work' Act Would Make the Lives of Working Families Better

On Tuesday, Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the “Schedules that Work” Act to provide federal guidelines for making sure that employers offer fair, flexible and reliable schedules for working families who are often left in difficult situations because of erratic employer scheduling. Miller said the act is about “dignity” and ensuring workers can earn a decent living and meet family responsibilities.

Scheduling problems are particularly glaring in some of the fastest-growing and lowest-paying industries in the United States, including retail, food service and janitorial work. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) President Joe Hansen explained the problem in more detail:

If you ask a worker in the retail industry what improvements can be made to their job, the response is likely to include scheduling. Fair, flexible and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure workers are treated with dignity and respect. In a perfect world, employers would view workers as human beings with competing life demands rather than numbers on a balance sheet. But in reality, scheduling is more erratic than ever.

Here are 11 ways the act would improve the lives of working families. It would:

1. Give employees the right to ask for schedules that better meet their professional and family needs: Workers would have the right to request more flexible or more predictable schedules, request more or fewer work hours and ask for minimal fluctuations in scheduling. Employers would be required to consider and respond to schedule requests.

2. Give employees with specific needs more protections: Scheduling requests for priority reasons would have to be granted by employers, if possible.  Priority reasons include health conditions, child care, elder care, a second job, education or job training.

3. Protect workers from retaliation: Employers would be prohibited from punishing workers for their work requests.

4. Require reporting pay: Often workers are called in to work, only to be sent home or put on call without pay or guarantee of work. The law would require employers to provide at least four hours of wages for employees who report to work when scheduled for shifts of four hours or longer and are sent home before four hours of work.

5. Require call-in pay: For employees that are required to call in less than 24 hours before a shift and are not allowed to work for at least four hours, employers would be required to pay them at least one hour’s wages.

6. Require split-shift pay: Workers who are required to work nonconsecutive hours would be paid an additional hour’s wages for time spent between shifts waiting to work.

7. Require employers to provide employees with clear expectations about hours and scheduling: As part of working a job, employees would be provided with a general idea of the schedules and number of hours they will be working and employers would be required to tell workers about changes in advance. Short-notice changes would require additional pay.

8. Help women have more ability to meet work and family responsibilities: Women workers make up the majority of low-wage jobs that would be affected by the bill, and improving their scheduling would make it easier for them to meet both work and family responsibilities.

9. Provide students with increased flexibility in pursuing higher education: According to CLASP, unpredictable scheduling limits class choice, the number of classes taken, class schedules and access to campus facilities, all of which slow down student progress toward graduation.

10. Benefit the economy: Unreliable and unpredictable scheduling is a drain on workforce productivity and increases turnover. Making schedules more reliable would help reduce both of these problems, which would increase business profits and help create more jobs.

11. Benefit businesses, too: More reliable schedules also would contribute to higher job satisfaction, higher organizational loyalty, higher worker performance and productivity, lower absenteeism and lower turnover.

Hansen said UFCW supports the act:

This legislation would ensure all workers have the rights fought for and won by UFCW members for decades. Our contracts have long guaranteed predictable and adequate scheduling. The law of the land should do the same. I urge Congress to pass the Schedules that Work Act as soon as possible.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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The Biggest Struggle With Working In Retail Isn’t Low Wages

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The retail sector is notorious for low wages and high turnover. But one of the most troubling aspects of working for retail is scheduling.

Many big retail stores use computer systems that use data from the weather outside, the flow of customers in the store, and the rate of sales to determine how many employees are needed for any given time.

This sort of automation is intended to boost the store’s bottom line. But for retail workers, who are often parents who need to hire babysitters, students who have tuition payments due, or people just trying to juggle shifts with two jobs, the “just-in-time” scheduling system wreaks havoc on their lives.

Watch and share this video from our friends at the Retail Action Project, and text JOBS to 30644 to join the fight for dignity at work for all.

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