Seattle passes ‘secure scheduling’ law that will affect thousands

SEATTLE — Many are calling it a historic vote. Seattle is now the second city in the nation to pass a “secure scheduling” law that will affect thousands of hourly workers and their employers.

Starting in July, food and retail businesses with 500 or more employees will face penalties if they don’t follow the rules.

“It will require 14 days’ advance notice for schedules,” City Council member Lisa Herbold said.

Bigger companies, such as REI and Starbucks, will have to give their workers a 14-day advance notice if they change an employee's work schedule and give 10-hour breaks between closing and opening shifts.

“I will be able to know what days I will be working for child care appointments,” said one supporter.

Employers also will be mandated to give part-time workers more hours before hiring new people.

“We passed a living wage in Seattle but it actually doesn’t help if they can’t get enough hours to make ends meet,” said one supporter.

Another said, “What’s happening today is monumental; for too long, power rested 100 percent on the employers."

But the Employment Policies Institute says that view is not the majority of part-time workers in Seattle. They point to a study from the University of Kentucky that says only 17% of part-time employees in Seattle even want to work full-time.

“What it suggests is that most workers affected are not looking for more hours but working these hours because the flexibility they provide,” Michael Saltsman of Employment Policies Institute.

The D.C.-based group says they have been studying a similar bill that passed in San Francisco.

“Even well-regarded businesses, some of them top 100 in the city, have closed their doors because the economics don’t work from them,” Saltsman said.

City Council members who championed the legislation say they don’t see it that way.

“Businesses that will be impacted by this are not small mom and pop shops,” Councilwoman Lorena Gonzalez said.

But the EPI says Seattle is getting a reputation as a city that treats businesses as a burden to be tolerated. The group says there will be unintended consequences, employers worried about penalties will hire less part-time workers and be less flexible with last-minute changes requested by workers.