Making Sustainable Scheduling a Priority

by | Oct 10, 2012 | Paid Sick Days

Every day, workers across the country are forced to choose between their jobs and their health and the health of their families. Too often, that’s because they struggle with unpredictable schedules, aren’t offered enough hours at work, and can’t earn paid sick days. In the retail and service industries, it’s becoming increasingly common for employers to classify workers as part time to avoid providing some of these basic protections. Today, the Retail Action Project launched a campaign aimed at taking on this growing problem. And workers across the country are stepping up to take action. You can help by showing your support here.

Eva, a retail worker in New York City, is one of these workers. Her story powerfully illustrates the costs to workers and families when workplaces don’t provide basic standards and protections. In her own words:

My name is Eva, and I have worked at a boutique in midtown Manhattan for eight years — a long time by retail standards — but I still don’t have a stable schedule or a steady paycheck. Because I am classified as part time, I don’t get paid sick days or health benefits — much less paid vacation, and my hours keep getting cut. Each year, I earn less and less, because my managers change my schedule to accommodate newer and younger workers. I’ve been pushed to fewer, later shifts. Basically, I’m chronically underemployed.

I thought I’d found a good job when I started at the boutique. However, it has been a struggle since the beginning. Instead of being rewarded for my years of hard work with a full-time, stable job, my employers have wreaked havoc in my life through my schedule. My hours fluctuate from week to week, and decrease from month to month. I now work 25 hours per week if I’m lucky.

I have to provide for myself and my husband on my part-time hours. Finding affordable healthcare is an ongoing challenge for us. I simply cannot afford doctor or dental visits, so I only go to the nearby public hospital in cases of emergency. I’ve been ordered to attend work sick with a cold or flu not only on my shifts, but to fill in for newer workers’ vacations. What’s even worse is that my boss demands that I cover her shifts on the days that she has doctor’s appointments, even though I don’t get health insurance or any paid sick days — after eight years! Because of my unstable schedule, I never know how much I will earn by the end of the month, so I have no way of anticipating whether or not I can pay my bills. That’s why I’ve joined the Retail Action Project’s Sustainable Scheduling Campaign.

This isn’t just happening to me. That’s why, on October 17th, retail workers are getting together to push back against unpredictable schedules and underemployment, with actions in front of stores that don’t offer sustainable schedules or enough hours in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Every week, I talk to other retail workers about how hard it is to find full-time work, to provide for our families, and manage our other responsibilities on these erratic part-time jobs. Retail work is one of the fastest growing sectors in this difficult economy, but they are also creating a crisis of underemployment — using abusive part-time scheduling to do so.”

No worker should be denied hours so her employer can avoid providing basic protections like paid sick days and health coverage. Sign the petition in support of Eva and all retail workers dealing with unsustainable schedules here.