Earlier today, I caught up with Kay Thompson and Sasha Hammad during a break at the White House Summit on Working Families. Kay spoke at the Summit about what having a predicable full-time schedule and a say in the timing of her work hours has meant for her family. Sasha Hammad is director of the Retail Action Project, and is fighting to secure these same protections for all retail workers in New York City.
Liz: Kay, you mentioned you work at Macy’s.
Kay: Yes, I work at Macy’s in Herald’s Square in the domestics department. And I’m a proud member of Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW.
Liz: And what does your work schedule there look like?
Kay: Thanks to my collective bargaining agreement, my schedule guarantees me the right to choose my days off six months in advance, and determine which days I am available to come in early and which days I can work late. Even during the holiday season, I get my schedule three weeks in advance.
Liz: From your remarks in there, it sounds like this schedule has made a big difference to you and your family.
Kay: Absolutely! Because of this schedule, I’ve been able to work at Macy’s for nearly 20 years, while raising my four children. I spend quality time with them in the morning and get them ready for school. And I’m able to take my daughter to her weekly appointments at an asthma treatment center, which is only open once a week.
Liz: Sasha, would you say Kay’s experience is typical of retail scheduling practices in New York City?
Sasha: Unfortunately, no. For Macy’s workers in stores that are not unionized, things look very different. Just a couple of days before the workweek is set to begin, Macy’s posts shifts that are available online, and then workers have to go online and bid for hours.
Liz: And how does this impact workers and their families?
Sasha: Workers scramble to arrange child care as fast as possible, so that they can quickly sign up for their preferred shifts, before they fill up. Some workers also struggle to coordinate their school schedule or the schedule at their second job. And for many, hours vary tremendously from week to week, leaving them without a steady paycheck.
Liz: Why would an employer operate this way?
Sasha: Employers may think they are cutting costs through just-in-time scheduling practices that tightly match the cost of labor to consumer demand, but the irony is abusive scheduling practices are bad for business.
Liz: Right. There’s research that shows that when employers provide fair work schedules they reduce workforce turnover, reduce absenteeism and have a healthier, more productive workforce.
Kay: Just look at me – the fair work schedule secured by my collective bargaining agreement is one of the main reasons I’ve stayed at Macy’s for nearly 20 years.
Liz: Kay and Sasha, what can be done to fix this problem?
Kay: Unions are key.
Sasha: Whether through a collective bargaining agreement or though other forms of worker organizing, workers are coming together and winning campaigns to change scheduling practices. And there are promising state and local policy solutions that we should build on to make fair scheduling a baseline labor protection for workers across the country.
Liz: Kay, what do you want folks to take away from today’s Summit?
Kay: We can and must do better. Workers and our families are depending on it.
Liz: And that’s a great note to end on. Thank you, Kay & Sasha!