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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

Bringing Portland a Fair Workweek

I first started reading about the terrible impacts of unpredictable scheduling for retail and food service employees a couple of years ago.  Increasingly, research and media reports have shown that many workers in these and other sectors are scheduled without any input from the worker, often receiving their schedule only a day or two before the schedule begins.  Often, the workers most affected by these scheduling practices earn low hourly wages at or just above the minimum wage.  This kind of volatile scheduling makes it impossible to organize your life, including arranging for child care or taking college classes.

This afternoon in City Council, we will consider a resolution that defines the problem of unpredictable employer scheduling practices in Portland, highlights and thanks local businesses that are already using predictable and fair scheduling practices, and encourages all employers in the city to review how they schedule workers and make changes to improve predictability and reduce volatility.  I hope this resolution starts a community conversation about how we can all work together to make scheduling more predictable for employees – and compensate employees fairly for unpredictability.

I’d like to see policy that sets standards for employee scheduling, especially for the workers most affected by volatility.  Right now, State law prevents cities in Oregon from passing this kind of legislation while a group of stakeholders meets to discuss statewide legislation.  The state preemption is due to expire next summer, allowing cities to consider our own local legislation at that time.  I know that worker scheduling is a challenge for many employers as well as employees, and if we consider policy in this area in Portland, I’m committed to a transparent process that results with a proposed policy that gets to predictable schedules for the most affected workers, while taking into account employer challenges.  Here in Portland we’re not yet to the point of developing policy.  However, it’s safe to say I’m most interested in common sense predictability measures to give workers more than a few days’ notice of when they’ll be working so they can plan their life and their budget --- not policies that would, for example, force employers to move to set schedules that never change.

I’d like to thank the coalition of advocates, stakeholders, workers, employers, and researchers who have already weighed in on this resolution and agreed to speak on the topic.  Specifically, I’d like to thank UFCW and the Working Families Party for their work with employees who are speaking out about the need for a Fair Workweek, New Seasons Market for their willingness to testify about their existing commitment to fair employee scheduling as well as what they would want Council consider in a future ordinance, and Dr. Mary King from Portland State University for her insights about demographic data and employee surveys.  Future policymaking depends on the efforts of these people and many others.