Seattle City Council considers scheduling law; major business organizations urge city to slow down

Seattle city officials have proposed a controversial scheduling law of questionable merit that is opposed by many major business groups. As the Seattle Times reports

Under a sweeping new scheduling law being considered by the city of Seattle, large retailers and many food-service companies with more than 500 employees would be required to give their workers in Seattle 14 days’ advance notice of their schedules and to offer additional hours to existing employees before hiring new workers.

The law would be among the first in the country, joining San Francisco. That’s familiar and welcome territory for Seattle leaders, as the Times reports.

In an apparent reference to the city’s adopting a $15 minimum- wage law ahead of other major metros, [Seattle Mayor Ed] Murray added, “Seattle will once again lead the conversation on how to respond to inequality by proposing new, innovative policy solutions that help workers and employers create healthier and more equitable workplaces.”

The Association of Washington Business covers the topic under the headline: “Employers urge Seattle to take care and time in drafting ‘secure scheduling’ rules.” As AWB reports, the Washington Retail Association has cited several concerns with the proposal, urging the City Council to slow down. WRA president Jan Teague writes in the group’s newsletter,

The city has an outlined chart that proposes a one-size-fits-all approach to how retailers can schedule their workers.  I have been told that once this is written as an ordinance and is in place for a while, it will spread to other businesses and eventually include every business in Seattle.  This comment came from a city employee at a meeting.

It’s time for you to be concerned.  This is a precedent-setting regulation that will only make for more paperwork, more lawsuits, and a less friendly work environment.  Flexible work hours will be gone.  Pay will have to be increased to cover for emergencies.  

Surveys have found that a majority of retail workers are satisfied with their schedules. The Times also reports,

Business groups, including the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, have been cautioning that scheduling is complex and that a one-size-fits-all approach would create more problems for employees. The Washington Retail Association recently urged the mayor and council to slow down the effort. A group of workers for full-service restaurants has also objected to the idea, fearing that it would take away from the scheduling flexibility they currently enjoy.

As we’ve written in our foundation report on workplace regulation,

In addition to the absolute costs of these measures, and the challenge they create in competing with other employers not subject to the same mandates, local governments’ wage and benefit regulations create compliance problems for employers operating in multiple jurisdictions. They also create difficulties as employers look to align their human resource policies among cities with different mandates.

…Washington employers and residents alike place a high priority on the equitable compensation and protection of those in the workforce. Policymakers must carefully consider wage and benefits mandates and system to ensure that such protection are maintained in a cost-effective manner so that employers can create more job opportunities for Washington citizens.

The Seattle Times story provides a good overview of the regulations, which are as complex as the business organizations’ say. While the Times reports that the ordinance seems to be fast-tracked, a slowing down appears to be in order.