On March 26, the National Retail Justice Alliance, in partnership with the UFCW, Citizen Action/Illinois, Women Employed and Jobs With Justice, hosted a hearing at the Spertus Institute in Chicago with Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) to highlight the economic plight of part-time workers in retail and other service industries. The hearing also underscored the need for Rep. Schakowsky’s legislation—the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act of 2013 (H.R. 675)—which would extend protections to part-time workers in the areas of employer-provided health insurance, family and medical leave, and pension plans. Sponsored by Schakowsky and Representative George Miller (D-Calif.), the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights builds upon the progress of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and ensures that part-time workers (defined as working less than 30 hours a week) and their families have access to critical workplace benefits. The ACA penalizes employers who fail to provide health insurance to full-time workers, but includes no such penalties for employers who deny health coverage to part-time workers.
“As our nation’s economy relies more and more on part-time, low-wage work, policies are needed to address the widening gap of those working without a safety net for retirement, healthcare, and family leave,” said Bill Fletcher, chair of the National Retail Justice Alliance and director of field service and education at the American Federation of Government Employees. “The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights would ensure that employers provide for critical benefits for part-timers and protect the health and well-being of millions of part-time workers in retail and other service industries.” In addition to Schakowsky and Fletcher, Tyrone Robinson, a Walmart worker and Jim Hutton, a Macy’s worker, spoke about their struggle to survive as part-time workers in the Chicago area. Approximately 881 workers were also involved in the production of the hearing.
“Today, I decided to speak out because there are millions of part-time workers in my position, many of which are in a worse off because they earn less and can’t afford health insurance,” said Robinson. “Today, I am speaking out not just for myself but for them and millions of other workers who are too afraid to speak up.”