Seattle Times editorial: “Seattle’s scheduling rule is counter to our innovative business culture”

Hard-hitting editorial today in the Seattle Times. We’ve written about Seattle proposed scheduling law and the problems it presents. The Times editorial board breaks it down clearly.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council are emulating San Francisco, which passed the nation’s first “secure scheduling” legislation in 2014. They presented a Seattle version on Aug. 9, hustled it through committees and expect to finalize the rules on Monday.

The rules require companies to provide at least 14 days notice of work schedules, offer existing employees additional hours when they become available and pay extra when schedules change.

As the Times writes,

Before rushing this through, Seattle officials should consider the long-termeffect of these rules and their other efforts to micromanage business operations at the behest of national labor organizations.

Seattle’s current success is due in large part because the city’s been an incubator of disruptive retail companies that are now household names.

That “current success” has come despite the city’s unusually aggressive micromanagement of HR policies, including the minimum wage and paid sick leave. And, because of the way things are being phased in, it’s not clear that the $15 minimum wage will be implemented without some unpleasant consequences for workers and employers. As noted here

A minimum-wage increase is a by-product of a healthy labor market, not a catalyst for one.

Healthy labor markets don’t last forever, however, as those who follow California’s economy recognize. Just one example (trust us, this is not a detour but a picture of one possible path ahead for the now-prosperous metro Seattle area.)

To be sure since 2010, California’s job growth has outperformed the national average, propelled largely by the tech-driven Bay Area; its 14% employment expansion over the past six years is just a shade below Texas’. But dial back to 2001, and California’s job growth rate is 12%, less than half that of Texas’ 27%. With roughly 10 million fewer residents, Texas has created almost 2.8 million jobs since the turn of the millennium, compared to 2.0 million in California.

Even in the Bay Area, the picture is less than ideal. Since 2001, total employment in the San Francisco area has grown barely 12% compared to 52% in Austin, 37.8% in Dallas-Ft. Worth, 36.5% in Houston and 31.1% in San Antonio. Los Angeles, by far California’s largest metro area, scratched out pedestrian job growth of 10.3%, slightly above the national increase of 9.3% over that time span.

Remarkably, despite the recent tech boom, California’s employment growth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related fields (aka STEM) since 2001 is just 11%, compared to 25% in Texas. Both Austin and San Antonio have increased their STEM employment faster than the Bay Area while Los Angeles, California’s dominant urban region and one-time tech powerhouse, has achieved virtually no growth. 

Back to the scheduling editorial in the Times.

The proposed rules single out particular companies, applying burdensome regulations to some but not others. They won’t benefit the majority of retail workers in the city, who mostly work at small- to mid-size companies.

Only affected are national retailers, coffee chains and restaurants with at least 500 employees and 40 or more establishments globally.

Retailers in general are struggling to compete with, yet it’s mostly exempted…

Unionized retailers are excluded from the layers of new regulation and potential penalties, even if their contracts provide fewer worker protections than stipulated.

So, the editorial poses the question:

Is it more about improving conditions for workers or encouraging unionization of large companies?

It’s worth pondering. But as we’ve written, if it’s about improving conditions for workers, the policy is not necessary: Most workers supposedly helped by the ordinance are satisfied with their schedules right now.