‘Fair Workweek’ legislation is introduced in City Council

Stephon Johnson | 12/8/2016, 9:06 a.m.
Because of the politics of the current president-elect, states and cities would have to lead the charge on workers’ rights.
Fast food workers Mark Hill/CNN

Because of the politics of the current president-elect, states and cities would have to lead the charge on workers’ rights. The New York City Council’s doing just that. One bill, packaged with other proposed legislation, could change the way fast-food and retail outlets in the five boroughs operate.

During the council’s Wednesday session, Bill Int. No. 1387 was introduced. Sponsored by New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the bill would restrict how fast-food and retail employers make last-minute shift changes and limit workers’ hours. This bill contains other elements as well.

“My Fast-Food Worker Empowerment Bill will establish a nonprofit organization to represent and defend fast-food workers should an employer break the rules on providing adequate notice of work schedules,” said Copeland in a statement on her Facebook page. “It is palpable reinforcement for workers so they can rest assured that scheduling rules will be followed.”

The package the bill’s a part of also has the backing of New York City Council Members Brad Lander, Deborah Rose and Corey Johnson.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sang the praises of the legislation this week.

“Earlier this year we promised to protect tens of thousands of hardworking New Yorkers from the struggle that comes from a lack of a predictable and stable work schedule,” said de Blasio in a statement. “Knowing your hours ahead of time is too often taken for granted, though it is a downright necessity for arranging child care, class schedules and budgeting for the week. Working with our partners in the City Council, we introduced legislation that would require fast-food employers to provide advance notice of upcoming shifts.”

De Blasio concluded, “This is an important next step in protecting the rights of 65,000 New Yorkers and once again demonstrates that we are committed to being a city that is fair and equitable for all.”

Workers’ rights advocates have called this type of practice, in which workers don’t have a schedule, but remain “on call,” a scheme to undermine the financial stability of employees. Another practice that could be banned if this bill were to be passed is what’s known as “clopenings.” This practice occurs most in the fast-food industry, where a worker has a closing/nighttime shift, but the worker’s next shift is the following morning when the business opens.

Bill Int. No. 1387 would require employers to post a physical copy of the work schedule of all employees on staff at that work location no less than 72 hours before the beginning of the scheduled work hours. They’re also required to directly notify employees about changes made as soon as possible.

Retail employers would also be prohibited from providing employees with fewer than 20 hours of work during any two-week period. That would be offset by any hours an employee chooses to take as paid or unpaid leave during that period.