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Grocery Worker Retention Act Becomes Law

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Mayor Bill de Blasio (at desk) signs Grocery Worker Retention Act as RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum (de Blasio’s right) and UFCW/RWDSU Local 338 President John Durso (far right) look on.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday signed the Grocery Worker Retention Act (GWRA) into law. The GWRA provides for a 90-day transition period to eligible employees following a change in ownership of a grocery store.

“We applaud Mayor de Blasio and the city council for passing this important legislation,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “It provides protection for the 50,000 Supermarket workers in New York City – who until now faced a sudden loss of income and benefits when their stores were purchased by new operators. This law provides stability within the grocery industry, protecting workers’ rights and promoting retention while providing for a workforce experienced and knowledgeable in food preparation, health regulations and sanitation procedures. That means that this law will help maintain safe and reliable service to families that depend on their local supermarkets for dietary and nutritional needs.”

The grocery industry makes up a significant portion of New York City’s retail workforce with over 50,000 employees and roughly two-thirds of this workforce coming from immigrant labor. This industry, however, currently suffers from a volatile condition with the eminent merger, closing or the establishment of new ownership of our supermarkets jeopardizing the future of workers and the quality of life of countless communities.

The recent A&P bankruptcy has provided a vivid example of this, rippling through the city with 52 stores impacted throughout the five boroughs including subsidiary brands such as Pathmark, Waldbaum’s, Food Emporium, and Food Basics. Some stores have been closed, others sold or auctioned, or even transformed into non-supermarket entities.

“New owners can’t just discard workers, some of whom may have worked for years at the store, in an effort to lower wages.  The bill also protects our communities by maintaining experienced staff that understand proper sanitation procedures and can maintain health standards.   It’s a common sense approach to bring some stability for workers, consumers and businesses. We thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member I. Daneek Miller for their leadership and the City Council for supporting this important piece of legislation,” Appelbaum added.

UFCW Local 400 Applauds Introduction of “Just Hours” Legislation in D.C.

Just Hours L400Last week, Mark Federici, President of UFCW Local 400, which has more than 3,000 members living in Washington, D.C., released the following statement in response to the introduction of the “Hours and Scheduling Stability Act.”

“If you ask anyone who works at a retail store in D.C. how to improve their job, the response is likely to include scheduling. Stable hours and predictable scheduling make it easier for people to plan their future and spend time with their families. Unfortunately, in the interest of maximizing their bottom lines, numerous retail stores in D.C. rely on erratic and last minute scheduling that forces people to work harder and longer and be unaware of their shift until the last moment.

“The Hours and Scheduling Stability Act would begin to curb these abusive scheduling practices by giving retail workers advance notice of their schedules, stopping on-call practices, and promoting full-time work opportunities by offering available hours to current employees before new ones are hired.

“The bottom line is that uncertain work schedules are too common in this city and they’re making it increasingly difficult for people who work at retail stores throughout D.C. to make ends meet.

“The legislation introduced today would go a long way towards ensuring retail workers in D.C. are given the consistent hours and schedules they need to create better lives for themselves and their families.

“We urge the D.C. Council to pass the Hours and Scheduling Stability Act as soon as possible.”

Summary of Bill’s Key Provisions:

 Scheduling with advance notice so that people aren’t living day-to-day:

  • Employers must post schedules 21 days in advance.
  • If an employer initiates a schedule change thereafter, the employee will receive one hour of pay as compensation for the change.
  • If the change occurs within 24 hours of a shift, the employee is awarded four hours of pay.

 Promoting full-time work opportunities so that people have enough hours to make ends meet:

  • Employers will offer available hours to qualified current employees before hiring new employees.

 Stopping abusive “on-call” practices so families can plan their lives:

  • If an employer cancels an employee’s shift or declines to call in an “on-call” employee with less than 24 hours’ notice, the employee will receive four hours of pay.
  • The law already guarantees employees a minimum daily pay of four hours when they report to work – this provision would simply close the “on-call” shift loophole.

 Ensuring equal treatment for hourly employees:

  • An employer may not discriminate against employees of the same job qualification with regard to rate of pay, leave and promotion opportunities regardless of hours worked.

 Who does this legislation apply to?

  • Chain retail employers with at least five establishments nationwide; and chain fast-food and full-service restaurants with at least 20 establishments nationwide.

For more information, please visit the DC Just Hours website.

A Victory for Retail Workers in Indianapolis

liftLast week, the Indianapolis City-County Council voted 15-14 to pass a resolution supporting the creation of a “Retail Workers Bill of Rights.” The Lift Retail Jobs campaign, a coalition of retail workers, local businesses, and community groups, has been advocating for this resolution to promote full-time work, fair scheduling practices, affordable benefits, and a pathway to the middle class.  Members of the coalition reacted to the victory.

“Here in Indianapolis, the retail industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy and a major employer of women and people of color. But unfortunately, many of these jobs are low-wage, part-time positions with erratic hours that are preventing retail workers from climbing up the economic ladder,” said Mary Kate Dugan, executive director of Central Indiana Jobs with Justice.

“A Retail Workers Bill of Rights would change that by promoting full-time work, access to hours, paid sick leave, and other protections for both full- and part-time workers,” Dugan said.

Shaunteka Campbell has worked a variety of retail and fast food jobs for the past 15 years. She called the vote a “step in the right direction.”

“I’m happy that the resolution passed and proud that many of our City-County Councilors stood with us,” said Campbell. “But our work isn’t done. We’re going to keep fighting for good jobs and a living wage for all retail workers in this city. And we’re going to win because we’re committed and we’re growing.”

For more information about the Lift Retail Jobs campaign, visit www.LiftRetailJobs.org.

Legislation Is Needed to Curb Abusive Scheduling Practices

40 percentToo many workers in the retail sector are struggling to survive in low-wage, part-time jobs with unpredictable schedules that narrow their ability to move up the economic ladder.  “On-call” and last minute scheduling has become common practice at many retail stores—making daily tasks such as arranging for child care, pursuing an education, or even working a second job difficult to complete.

Economists and academics agree that access to education would narrow the current wealth gap, but millions of retail workers are unable to further their education because of scheduling conflicts at work.  Faced with losing more hours or even their jobs, many retail workers have been forced to drop classes and curtail their education in order to meet their employer’s demands.

Fortunately, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) are reintroducing legislation that would provide retail workers with modest safeguards and begin to curb the most abusive scheduling practices. The Schedules That Work Act includes a presumption that retail workers who need a schedule change due to child care, school, a second job, or medical needs will receive that change unless there is a bona fide business reason not to. The legislation also provides retail workers advance notice of their schedules and guarantees minimum pay when they are sent home from work before completing their entire shift.

This legislation is a good first step toward addressing workplace scheduling practices that have put millions of workers at a disadvantage, and the Retail Justice Alliance urges Congress to pass the Schedules That Work Act as soon as possible.

San Francisco Retail Workers Bill of Rights Takes Effect This Week

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This week, food and non-food retail workers in San Francisco will have something to celebrate ahead of the July Fourth celebrations as the city’s Retail Workers Bill of Rights ordinance takes effect on July 3.

Last year, the Retail Workers Bill of Rights became law in San Francisco—making the city the first in the nation to address the industry specific problems retail workers face every day, including unpredictable scheduling.

The new law, which is a package of two separate pieces of legislation, requires retailers with at least 20 employees and 20 or more locations worldwide to give retail workers their schedules at least two weeks in advance.  The new law also discourages abusive on-call scheduling practices by requiring retailers to provide their employees with an extra two-to-four hours of pay if changes to schedules are made with less than 24 hours’ notice; promotes full-time work and access to hours; and protects retail workers from losing their jobs when their company is bought or sold.

Fair, flexible, and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure that retail workers are treated with dignity and respect.  San Francisco’s Retail Workers Bill of Rights serves as a model for how individual cities can tackle income inequality, and improve the quality of jobs in the retail sector so that workers in this growing industry have a pathway to the middle class.

New York AG Questions Scheduling Practices in the Retail Sector

Although the retail sector continues to add jobs to the U.S. economy, too many retail workers are struggling to survive in low-wage wage jobs with unpredictable scheduling practices that threaten their economic security and stand in the way of competing life demands.

Recently, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent a letter to 13 retailers, including Target Corp., Gap Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co., regarding their on-call scheduling practices, which require hourly retail workers to show up for work or stay home with little advance notice and no pay if the worker’s services are not needed. New York labor laws state that workers who are called in by their employers for a scheduled shift are entitled to at least four hours of pay at minimum wage even if workers are dismissed early and work less than four hours.

Economists and academics agree that access to education would narrow the current wealth gap, but many retail workers are unable to further their education because of unpredictable scheduling at work. Faced with losing more hours or even their jobs, many retail workers have been forced to drop classes and curtail their education in order to meet their employer’s demands. As income inequality continues to grow, it’s critically important that employers in the retail sector lead the way in making sure that retail workers have access to full-time hours and benefits so that workers in this growing industry have a pathway to the middle class.

All Workers Deserve Access to Paid Sick Leave

paid-sick-daysThe United States is the only industrialized country that doesn’t require paid sick leave for workers.  Currently, nearly 40 million Americans are reporting to work sick out of fear of losing more hours or even their jobs, and many are in low-wage, part-time jobs in the retail industry.

To date, only 16 cities and three states have passed sick leave laws.  While these states and cities should be lauded, all workers deserve access to paid sick leave.  Fortunately, legislation has been introduced that addresses sick leave on the national level.  The Healthy Families Act would allow millions of American workers to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year.

No one should have to report to work sick because they have no other choice. The Retail Justice Alliance urges Congress to act now and pass Healthy Families Act.

Retail Justice Alliance Supports Schedules That Work Act

10475677_856160454411853_1524949812110337541_nAlthough the retail sector—which is an important employer of minorities and women—has added an average of 26,000 jobs per month over the past 12 months, too many retail workers are struggling to survive in low-wage wage jobs with unpredictable scheduling practices that stand in the way of competing life demands and threaten their economic security.

The Schedules That Work Act would provide retail workers with modest safeguards and begin to curb the most abusive scheduling practices. This legislation includes a presumption that retail workers who need a schedule change due to child care, school, a second job, or medical needs will receive that change unless there is a bona fide business reason not to. The legislation also provides retail workers advance notice of their schedules and guarantees minimum pay when they are sent home from work before completing their entire shift.

Fair, flexible, and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure that retail workers are treated with dignity and respect, and the Retail Justice Alliance urges Congress to pass the Schedules That Work Act as soon as possible.

A Bad Week for Workers and the Middle Class

This was a bad week for workers everywhere. This week started with the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn ruling, which was brought by the right-wing, anti-worker National Right to Work Foundation and other corporate interests with the end goal of silencing workers’ voices on the job and weakening the middle class. And while this decision primarily affects home health care workers, it sets a terrible precedent for other workers seeking a voice on the job.

This week, labor unions also marked the one-year anniversary of the Senate’s passage of comprehensive immigration reform—legislation that created a path to citizenship for aspiring Americans and strengthened protections for immigrant workers. And one year later, in spite of the unfolding humanitarian crisis on the border, it remains the only meaningful step taken toward fixing our broken immigration system.

The Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn ruling and the refusal of House Republicans to fix our immigration system is bad news for workers everywhere. It’s up to all of us to take a stand and redouble our efforts to fight for workers’ rights with the end goal of leveling the playing field, bringing workers out of the shadows, and restoring America’s middle class.

 

“The White House Summit on Working Families Needs to Hear Worker Voices”–A Guest Blog by OUR Walmart Member Bene’t Holmes

Benet-150x150As a 25 year old single mother I know the realities of trying to survive on low wages. I live with my five-year old son in Chicago and I work for Walmart, the world’s largest private employer and a company that made over $16 billion in profits last year.  In the nine short months I have worked for the giant retailer, my heartbreaking experiences have driven me to take action and stand up for pregnant and working mothers.

I work hard every day in hopes of a better life for me and my family. Achieving the American dream, while working at Walmart is nearly impossible. I have four family members who either still work or have worked for Walmart and all of us have been left wanting jobs with an employer that values our work, respects our voice, and provides real opportunity to earn a living. I have firsthand knowledge of how difficult it is being stuck in a cycle of low wages and unstable schedules that prevent me and other workers from getting ahead and being independent.

I struggle to take care of my family on the poverty wages I earn working for Walmart. I work full-time and make under $9 an hour, which comes out to only about $15,000 a year. Because of my low wages, I cannot afford a home for my family and must rely on others to survive. Despite my best efforts to be financially independent, I recently had to apply for food stamps. And that is just of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my struggles working for Walmart.

In February of this year, I suffered one of the most devastating losses of my life. I was four months pregnant when I asked my manager for job duties that were less physically demanding.  I knew that the work I was performing was putting excessive strain on my body. Even though a doctor said I needed to work light duty, my manager denied my request and the next day I had a miscarriage while at work.

I asked for a leave of absence after the miscarriage to recover and was denied that request as well. To add insult to injury, my managers attempted to discipline me for my absences. Besides feeling betrayed by Walmart I questioned how a company that champions family could be so cold and heartless when one of its own employees is dealing with a tragedy.

I had to act—no woman should ever be put in that position again. I used my story to speak out and empower other women. I found out about the associate-led Organization United for at Respect (OUR) Walmart and fought to have my leave approved. Working with OUR Walmart, my request was eventually granted and all disciplinary actions against me were dropped. Building on that momentum, I became involved with the “Respect the Bump” campaign to ensure that all pregnant women at Walmart are able to get light duty when they need it.

The White House Summit on Working Families needs to hear our voices. Millions of workers, especially working women, have stories similar to mine. They are trapped in a cycle of low wage jobs with unpredictable hours that make it difficult to raise a family. My hope is this event will help elevate the ongoing national conversation about making today’s workplaces better for everyone, including working mothers like me.

I believe the work I am doing through OUR Walmart will bring about needed change at my company. Obviously, more can be done to better the lives and circumstances of working women and their families. The White House Summit on Working Families is the perfect place to highlight and advance this effort.

Bene’t is traveling to Washington, D.C., to attend the White House Summit on Working Families. The Summit will be held on June 23 and is hosted by the Center for American Progress, partnered with the White House, and the U.S. Department of Labor.