New Philadelphia law ensures predictable work schedules

PHILADELPHIA — The poorest big city in the United States has passed legislation that will ensure fast-food, retail and hospitality workers will know when they'll work and how much they'll work.

Philadelphia Councilwoman Helen Gym introduced and championed the "fair workweek" measure approved Thursday. She said it will affect about 130,000 hourly workers in retail, food service and hospitality.

"We can talk about poverty, or we can do something about it. We choose to do something," Gym said. "This is a win for our city, for Philadelphia's working people and for smart business practices.

Workers say that without predictable schedules, they can't budget or make plans like doctor's appointments, and it keeps them in a cycle of poverty.

"Right now I only get my schedule with 48 hours notice," said Lekesha Wheelings, a Marriott hotel worker, speaking about how advance notice of her schedule and work hours would help. "Occupancy at my hotel has gone up, but I made $5,000 less in 2017 than I did in 2016 because of reduced hours."

The bill includes provisions for advance notice of schedules, a path to more hours of work, compensation for last-minute schedule changes and protections from retaliation. Starting in 2020, employers must give workers at least 10 days notice of their schedules, rising to 14 days in 2021.

Employees must receive a "good faith" estimate of how many hours they can expect to work. They are also guaranteed at least nine hours rest between consecutive shift, or payment of $40 if they agree to work without a sufficient break. 

Pat Eiding, president of Philadelphia AFL-CIO, said the new law would provide workers with more stability. 

"This legislation will allow working people to plan for doctor visits, to take care of family members, to go back to school and further their education," he said.

Opponents say the measure will hurt growth and tourism.

Philadelphia is now the second-biggest U.S. city, after New York, to approve a scheduling law.