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City Releases Report Detailing Worker Scheduling Practices in Seattle

The City of Seattle released an independent study on employee scheduling practices in the retail and food service industries in Seattle. The report, commissioned by the City Council and the Mayor in May of this year, summarizes responses from hundreds of workers and business managers from a number of industries on a wide range of scheduling issues, including on-call scheduling practices, rest periods between shifts, and advance notice of shift changes. The findings will inform the work of the Mayor and the Seattle City Council as they consider measures to provide more stability in scheduling practices for workers and managers in the service industry.

“This report gives us a more detailed understanding of the scheduling realities facing workers and managers in Seattle’s service industries,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “I look forward to reviewing this assessment as we work with labor groups and our community of progressive employers to provide new guidelines to give greater predictability in workplace scheduling.”

Among the key findings of the report:

  • While many Seattle workers report high levels of satisfaction with their work schedule, nearly half of survey respondents would sacrifice a 20% pay premium in order to secure substantive advanced notice.
  • Unpredictable work scheduling creates serious financial and family hardship for some Seattle workers, with workers of color disproportionately experiencing shorter on-call notice and more frequent changes to their work schedules.
  • 70 percent of workers have on-call responsibilities, with the majority of employees receiving less than 6 hours’ notice before they start work.
  • Nearly a quarter of African-American and Latino employees reported that workplace scheduling has impacted their parenting or childcare responsibilities.

The report, developed by Vigdor Measurement and Evaluation, is based on a series of interviews, focus groups, and two large-scale surveys of workers and managers. The survey was designed in English and translated into Amharic, Chinese, Somali, Spanish, Tigrinya, and Vietnamese. More than 1,000 retail and food industry employees and 500 managers participated in the survey across the city.

“This report is a local data point among many national studies which are being used to inform policy development. 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 Councilmember Lisa Herbold. “The study also exposes that this is a problem that is considerably worse for people of color. The report confirms the conclusions of national studies that expose the racially disparate impacts of insecure scheduling.”

“It remains important that we keep in mind the workers’ and employers’ stated desire to protect flexibility, while giving workers the peace of mind that accompanies a predictable income. Being able to pay the rent shouldn’t be a game of chance,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González.

Mayor’s Office and Council staff will draw on the report’s findings to help craft scheduling legislation to transmit to Seattle City Council by the end of August. San Francisco is the only major city in the U.S. to adopt a predictable scheduling ordinance that applies to chain retail stores and restaurants.

The full report is available here.

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