A fair work week for New Yorkers

A fair work week for New Yorkers

Nearly five years ago, fast-food workers in Downtown Brooklyn went out on strike for a few hours -- and they sparked a national movement.

Their demand, “$15 and a union,” was dismissed as crazy at the time. But by demanding dignity, by organizing, by their courage, they made it possible. Since then, more than 22 million Americans have benefited from state & local increases in the minimum wage … and more than 10 million (including all low-wage workers in NYC) are on the path to earning $15/hour.

But earning $15/hour only goes so far, if you can’t get scheduled for enough hours. And if your boss keeps shifting your schedule, calling you in at the last minute, or cancelling your shifts, you still can’t lead a stable life (much less schedule child care, or college classes). More than two-thirds of low-income workers who have fluctuating hours and limited notice, also struggle in paying their rent or bills.

So yesterday, fast-food and retail workers partnered with the New York City Council on a huge step forward for decent jobs, fair treatment, and worker dignity.

I was pleased to join that very first strike in Downtown Brooklyn in 2012. To be arrested in civil disobedience with fast food workers last November. And to sponsor the Council’s new “fair work week” legislation.

For fast food workers, our new legislation: 

  • Requires employers to give workers two weeks advance notice of their schedule.

  • Bans “clopenings” (when workers are required to close the store late at night, and then open early the next morning).

  • Provides a pathway to full-time hours (by requiring employers to offer available shifts to existing employees, before hiring new ones).

  • Creates a new way to organizing together (by enabling workers to voluntarily deduct from their paycheck to support a 501c3 organization).   

And for chain retail workers more broadly, the package also bans “on-call” scheduling, in which workers are required to wait by the phone to see if they are scheduled for a shift … and paid nothing if they aren’t.

We held extensive hearings on these bills, talked with scores of workers, employers, and other stakeholders, and visited numerous fast-food establishments (big thanks to my Policy Director, Annie Levers). I’m confident the bills strike the right balance. Read and learn more about the legislation here.

This is truly a victory won by worker organizing -- by fast-food workers like Shantell Walker, Pierre Metivier, Rosa Rivera, Jorel Ware, and many, many more. With $15/hour, two-weeks advance notice of your schedule, a path to full-time hours, and the chance to organize with co-workers … even a fast-food or retail job can help you move forward in your life.

These workers had tremendous support from SEIU 32-BJ, RWDSU, A Better Balance, and the Center for Popular Democracy. I’m grateful to have had the chance to work on this legislation with Speaker Mark-Viverito, and Council Members Ferreras-Copeland and Johnson. We worked closely with the Mayor de Blasio and his administration (including DCA Commissioner Salas, Office of Labor Policy & Standards Director Liz Vladeck, and Joni Kletter) to make it happen.

Last week, we implemented the Freelance Isn’t Free Act to protect freelancers from getting stiffed.

This week, fast-food and retail workers are a big step closer to more stable lives.

With the Trump Administration doing the bidding of billionaires and undermining workers’ rights, I’m proud that New York City is doing all we can to advance them.

- Brad

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