Stand-by scheduling creates problems for many workers


Scheduling problems at airport contractor Air Serv have gotten so bad that workers demonstrated outside company headquarters recently despite sub-zero temperatures. Newly introduced state legislation would bar “just-in-time” scheduling practices that disrupt the lives of airport workers and thousands of other Minnesotans.

“The new on-call policy from our company, Delta sub-contracter Air Serv, has cut our hours and made life incredibly difficult for families like mine at the airport,” said Ronda Jama, a wheelchair agent who lives in Minneapolis. “When we don’t know until the day of whether we will work, it throws our families into chaos.”

Fair Scheduling Legislation sponsored by Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, would:

  • Require employers to give employees 21 days’ notice of their work schedule.
  • Provide compensation for workers if their shift is cancelled within 24 hours.
  • Guarantee adequate daily rest by requiring at least 11 hours between work shifts unless the employee agrees.

Thousands of Minnesotans, many of them in the retail and service industries, would benefit if the legislation is passed, according to the coalition of worker advocacy groups, social justice organizations, labor unions and workers that supports the bill.

“Unpredictable hours make economic mobility and achieving the American Dream even harder, especially if you’re already struggling to get by,” said Bree Halverson, state director of Working America Minnesota. “Minnesota families need 21st-century scheduling policies that keep up with the changing nature of today’s workplace.”

Researchers from the University of Chicago recently found 41 percent of hourly workers learn their schedules less than a week in advance. Half of hourly workers have no control over their schedules. Among the 74 percent of workers who report weekly fluctuations in hours, average hours varied by 49 percent of their “usual” weekly hours. A 10-hour week can follow a 30-hour week.

With the advent of “just-in-time” labor practices, store managers often use computer algorithms of real-time sales data to build work schedules, allowing employers to call in staff on a moment’s notice or cancel shifts if business tapers off. However, this leaves workers, often women and people of color, holding the bag – scrambling to piece together child care and family care coverage, school schedules and other basic activities of everyday life.

“Retail workers’ lives are at the mercy of their work schedule,” said Andy Barno-Iversen, a retail worker and member of Working America. “My story has a good ending; my store did the right thing and changed the policy so workers have adequate rest between shifts, but it highlights the vulnerability of other retail workers. For workers that have a child like I do, scheduling impacts more than just the individual worker, it also affects our families that depend on us.”

Advocates say the benefits of fair scheduling go beyond individual workers and their families to provide a positive effect on communities and the economy.