“You need to treat them like they’re a human being”: 2 new research reports indicate how workers — and businesses — can benefit from secure scheduling

City of Seattle releases “baseline report” which shows extent of scheduling issues in coffee, food, and retail before secure scheduling ordinance took effect

New report comes on heels of provocative study of The Gap which suggests improved scheduling practices can benefit business through increased productivity and higher sales

Two new reports out this week — the Seattle scheduling “baseline” report and the Gap "stable scheduling" study — show the extent of scheduling issues workers face, and the potential for policy change to have a positive impact on workers, their families, their communities... and the businesses where they work. As one manager is quoted: “If you want to have a well functioning team... you need to treat them like they’re a human being.”

The authors of the Seattle baseline report surveyed 700 workers and interviewed several dozen managers to examine scheduling practices at large coffee, food, and retail companies before Seattle’s landmark secure scheduling ordinance took effect. Intended to set a baseline for comparison to measure the impact of the ordinance in future studies, the new report reaffirms the extent and impact issues that prompted workers to organize for more stable and predictable schedules.

Key findings of the baseline report include:

  • Workers’ schedules were wildly unstable. Almost half of surveyed workers reported irregular schedules. Hours worked varied dramatically from week to week — the typical worker averaged 31 hours a week but saw an extraordinarily large gap of 12 hours between the week they worked the most hours in a given month, and the week they worked the least hours that month.
  • Workers wanted change. More than eight in ten workers reported only limited input in to their work schedules, or no input at all. Seventy-five percent expressed a desire for more predictable hours. A quarter reported working less than 30 hours a week but wanting access to additional hours.
  • People working in coffee, food, and retail typically lack the flexibility every worker needs. Forty percent of working students said their schedules made it hard to succeed. Nearly half of workers said they sometimes don’t have enough flexibility to handle their family needs. Almost four in ten said their incomes varied from week to week, and only 36% said they were sure they could come up with $400 if they needed it in an emergency.
  • More community-based outreach, education, and enforcement are needed. Less than 40% of affected workers were aware of the ordinance in the months before it first took effect. Working Washington is hosting an online Know Your Rights training for workers later this month.
  • A manager quoted on the need for secure scheduling: ”To believe that your employee has nothing better to do in their life but wait by their phone for you to call them is misguided. If you want to have a well-functioning team that's happy, that gets along with each other, that gets along with your customer, is good to your customer, then you need to treat them like they're a human being."
  • A manager quoted on the gap between predictions and reality: "When the scheduling ordinance in San Francisco was coming out, [HR there] just planned the worst situations possible. ... When the San Francisco ordinance came about, they had no problems at all, which I found funny. Just the worst possible scenario for every situation, and none of it happened."

The city’s report comes just days after the release of a provocative study of The Gap, which indicates that improved scheduling practices for workers can lead directly to higher productivity, better employee retention, and increased sales. Academic researchers worked with The Gap to randomly select stores where they would improve scheduling practices and then measure results against a control group of stores. The research found that:

  • Sales increased by a remarkable 7% in the stores which provided more stable hours. (Retailers often aim for a 1% - 2% increase in a given year.)
  • Labor productivity increased by 5% in stores which provided more stable hours. (This is double the typical productivity growth in retail.)
  • Retention of experienced staff improved.

The Seattle City Council committee on Housing, Health, Energy, and Workers’ Rights will review and discuss these the latest research on secure scheduling at their regular meeting Thursday morning. (They will also take up the report Home Equity: Inequality and Exclusions Facing Domestic Workers in Seattle, which we released in mid-March.)

Full reports available below (all PDFs):

Who: Seattle City Council committee on Housing, Health, Energy, and Workers’ Rights
What: Review and discuss key findings of new reports on secure scheduling (and domestic workers’ rights)
When: 9:30 am, Thursday, April 5, 2018
Where: City Council Chambers


Contact: Sage Wilson, Working Washington: sage@workingwa.org

Working Washington is the voice for workers in our state. Working Washington fast food strikers sparked the fight that won Seattle’s first-in-the-nation $15 minimum wage. Working Washington baristas and fast food workers led the successful campaign for secure scheduling in Seattle, and our members across the state helped drive forward Initiative 1433 to raise the minimum wage and provide paid sick days. We successfully drove Amazon to sever ties with the right-wing lobby group ALEC and improve conditions in their sweatshop warehouses, and got Starbucks to address inequities in their corporate parental leave policy. And we made history once again with the landmark statewide paid family leave law passed last year. For more information, including our press kit, visit workingWA.org.