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Seattle restaurant workers join fight against scheduling restrictions

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A group of full-service restaurant workers have formed a coalition to oppose Seattle's plan to limit how far in advance restaurants and other employers can set and change staff schedules.

The Full Service Workers Alliance of Seattle claims to include more than 1,000 Seattle restaurant workers in its grassroots movement that formed around an opposition to scheduling legislation. Some members have been outspoken about the city's efforts to require employers to set schedules weeks ahead of time and forego last-minute changes, arguing that workers appreciate the flexibility as much as employers.

The bill could include employer mandates to set schedules 14 days ahead of time, to compensate employees for unpredictable scheduling changes and to offer extra hours to team members on payroll before hiring additional staff.

"A flexible schedule gives me the freedom I need to raise my daughter on my own,” Christy Taylor, a server at Elliott Bay Public House & Brewery, said in a statement. “Creating my own schedule has given me the time I need to volunteer for her school functions, attend parent-teacher conferences and take off at the last minute when she is sick.”

Taylor said she was extremely frustrated that the city council did not reach out to restaurant workers to find out how they feel about the legislation's impact on their personal and professional lives.

During stakeholder meetings and legislative workshops, provisions have been aired to modify the scheduling proposal that was adopted in San Francisco in 2014. That city has approved legislation limiting employers' scheduling leeway, but included a provision that allows workers to change their schedules without penalty. 

Seattle's City Council commissioned a study of how prevailing scheduling practices impact hourly employees in the city. The study found that though Seattle workers have high levels of satisfaction with their work schedule, nearly a third (30%) reported that having irregular schedules at work created serious problems and that people of color were disproportionately burdened by the unpredictability. Foodservice workers experience short-notice scheduling more often than retail—half report receiving less than one week’s notice of shift and shift changes, the report found.

“The data reveals that a significant number of Seattle employees’ schedules produce hardship including difficulty planning a budget, a second job, and childcare needs,” said Lisa Herbold, one of two council members preparing the ordinance.

According to a council spokesperson, the so-called secure scheduling bill will likely be introduced before the City Council takes recess August 22 and brought to a vote after the council returns in September.

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