While hourly and low-wage workers could benefit from knowing their set schedules ahead of time, what works well for those in the restaurant and retail industries could produce nothing but snarls for the construction industry

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JULES ROGERS - Members of Oregon Working Families and allies gathered in front of City Hall last week, rallying in support of Commissioner Novicks fair scheduling resolution.

A bill for Fair Scheduling, proposed by Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-OR) in late September, could be the first statewide fair scheduling legislation passed, and would require employers to adopt more open and honest scheduling practices for hourly workers.

“I want Oregon to to be the first state to end the unfair labor practices that make it hard for families to care for a child or sick family member,” said State Senator Michael Dembrow. “This legislation will have the goal of ending unpaid on-call hours and compensating workers for shifts canceled at the last minute.”

Fair scheduling laws have already been passed in Seattle, San Francisco and New York City, but never statewide — yet. In San Francisco and Seattle, the workers affected by recent fair scheduling legislation were narrowed down to those in retail and restaurants, which might happen in Oregon, too. If the proposal is narrowed down by field, it might not affect the construction industry at all.

Construction industry

Shawn Miller, Pacific Northwest chapter lobbyist for Associated Builders and Contractors, said the ABC opposes fair scheduling because it just doesn’t work for the construction industry. ABC, a national organization, represents 21,000 merit shops and construction firms.

“Employees in the industry understand that they may be doing something completely different one day just based on scheduling,” Miller said. “To say that you’re going to be at this particular job in two days, and that changes because of several different reasons, penalizing the employer for changing that employee’s schedule just doesn’t seem reasonable.”

Depending on the contractor, most firms have multiple jobs going on all the time from small commercial buildings to service work to residential properties.

“You may be going to three or four different sites, you may have something scheduled in two or three days, but it may get held up because a general contractor wasn’t able to accomplish something or they needed to have a building inspection at a certain time and location that didn’t get done,” Miller said. “That’s pretty common in the city of Portland — delays and inspections — that throws off the employees’ schedules trying to adjust for that, and that’s just normal in the construction industry.”

Electricians, inspectors, subcontractors and even rain can change a contractor’s schedule, because the work has to be done in the right order. Because of those delays, a worker could be sent to a different company site any day.

“In the construction industry, they do everything they can to have consistent schedules for their employees,” Miller said. “However, construction is very fluid on different jobs (depending on) weather and a lot of different conditions in Oregon where it just doesn’t work for the industry.”

Miller said fair scheduling simply isn’t necessary, and that construction workers understand their schedules are fluid when they come into the industry.

“I have not heard from any members and employees of the construction companies saying there’s issues of their schedules,” Miller said.

The details of Oregon’s proposal aren’t yet clarified, as the legislative session is still a ways out.

“We’re still learning about what the proposal is. If it’s going to include all businesses, then we’ll be raising these issues, especially on construction,” Miller said. “I think you’ll see a lot of opposition from the entire business community, and ABC will oppose it next session.”

Portland’s resolution

Last week, Commissioner Steve Novick sponsored a fair schedule resolution at the City Council meeting, where Oregon Working Families organized a rally. The minor political party is leading the supporting coalition for the fair scheduling bill, which includes APANO and Laborer’s 483 among more unions.

Commissioner Novick’s non-binding resolution recognizes that unpredictable work schedules negatively affect businesses and families and create problems, especially for those who are caretakers or who have a second job.

Currently, there is a temporary moratorium in state law preventing Portland from enacting any employer work schedule requirements until the 2017 legislative session concludes, or by Aug. 31 at the latest.

“Even in those (San Francisco and Seattle) proposals they’ve narrowed it to more retail and restaurants, which is still pretty tough on the business community in Oregon,” Miller said. “In the last two sessions with sick leave and increases in minimum wage, and now proposals on mandating certain schedule requirements and penalizing employers if you alter or change the schedule, it’s getting to be hard for businesses to be able to adjust to all the different requirements and regulations.”

As state legislation increases the minimum wage, predictable hours are needed to ensure workers have the opportunity to earn a full paycheck consistently. Novick’s resolution encourages all of Portland’s employers to review their scheduling practices and consider changes that ensure predictability, regardless of industry.

Novick’s Resolution

The Fair Scheduling resolution in Portland is based on studies that found it important for modern families and work-life balance.

With the resolution, the City Council recognizes that unpredictable work schedules, especially when employees are not compensated for a lack of predictability, create uncertainty and stress. In addition, these unpredictable scheduling practices disproportionately affect low wage workers, who are disproportionately people of color, women and parents of young children who must arrange for child care.

  • Studies based on the 2014 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that 62 percent of people aged 24-36 are hourly employees, and more than 40 percent usually have less than one week of advance notice of their job schedules. Half have no input into their schedules.
  • In Oregon, 80 percent of parents with dependent minors are in the workforce, and 33 percent of children in Oregon live in a single-parent family.
  • According to the Oregon Employment Department, two out of five Oregon jobs pay less than $15 an hour.
  • The University of Oregon’s 2014 report “The High Cost of Low Wages in Oregon” shows that there are 400,000 low wage workers in Oregon. The study also found that about 45 percent of Latino and 50 percent of African Americans are likely to end up in low wage jobs, and low-wage part-time workers in retail, food service and home health are disproportionately affected by erratic and nonstandard work schedules.
  • In Oregon in 2012, women were paid 79 cents for every dollar earned by male workers, and the Oregon Council on Civil Rights’ 2014 Pay Inequality in Oregon report identifies worker scheduling as one of the causes of this gender pay gap.

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