NEW YORK— Cashiers, cooks and delivery people are celebrating after the New York City Council passed vital legislation for a fair work week for fast-food and retail workers and a law that will enable fast-food workers to have a united voice on the job and in their communities.
“This is a great day for me and my coworkers,” said Flavia Cabral, who works at McDonald’s in Midtown Manhattan. “We want to thank the City Council for listening to the voices of working New Yorkers and passing these laws so we can work, pay our bills and take care of our families. I am the sole breadwinner in my family, supporting my husband who is too ill to work, along with a teenage daughter. I have to work two jobs because I can’t get enough steady hours at McDonald’s; now my hope is to be able to get full-time hours at McDonald’s. And with two weeks’ notice on my schedule I will be able to support my family and spend more time with them as well.”
Cabral and hundreds of fast-food workers and their allies rallied at City Hall in support of the legislation just before the Council vote.
The Council passed Fair Work Week scheduling legislation which includes three bills covering the fast-food industry. The first requires fast-food employers to give workers two weeks’ advance notice on their schedules or pay them a penalty for changes to their schedules with less than two weeks’ notice. The second requires employers to offer shifts in the store that become available to existing part-time workers before hiring new workers to fill them. The last discourages the practice of “clopenings”—when a worker has to close and then open their store without enough time to rest in between shifts. Under the new law, employers have to pay a penalty fee to workers if they are scheduled for back-to-back shifts with less than 11 hours in between.
“There are times when I have been scheduled to close my store and then open it a few hours later. Because I work in Times Square and live in the Bronx, I have no time to go home so I have to sleep in the store,” said Amber [last name] who works at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. “Now I know that my employer has an incentive not to schedule me for a clopening and I hope it will happen less often. I also hope that I’ll get more hours in my store and with two weeks’ notice on my schedule I’ll be able to plan my life and go back to school.”
Council members also passed a bill banning on-call scheduling in the retail industry, which disrupts workers lives by requiring them to be available to work certain hours even if they are not scheduled to work and won’t get paid.
New York City is the largest city in the US to pass fair work week legislation joining Seattle, San Francisco and Emeryville, CA.
The Council also voted in favor of the Fast Food Worker Empowerment Act. This first-of-its-kind legislation in the country enables fast food workers to set up a nonprofit organization to advocate for themselves and their families and improve their communities, funded by contributions taken directly from their paychecks. The law will help fast-food workers create a strong organization to educate workers about their rights on the job and help them push for the changes they need in their communities.
“Thanks to the City Council we can form a strong organization to educate our coworkers on their rights, like their right to a fair work week,” said Shantel Walker, who works at Papa John’s Pizza in Brooklyn. “We also want to have an organization that can fight for affordable housing, good public education, immigrant rights, and police and criminal justice reform—these are the issues that affect us most in our neighborhoods so we’re coming together to work on all these issues.”
“As the Trump Administration and Republicans in Washington are pushing legislation and regulation that is disastrous for working people, we have been proud to be part of the resistance, standing with New York City fast-food workers in the fight for good jobs,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. “The City Council today with its vote has shown that it is at the vanguard of promoting workers’ rights and protecting vulnerable communities. Passing a fair work week for tens of thousands of minimum wage workers in New York City and ensuring fast-food workers can speak with a united voice on workplace and community issues will strengthen our city and help workers win dignity on the job. 32BJ members have stood with fast-food workers since their first strike over four years ago and we’re proud to be standing here in victory with them today. ”
Hundreds of workers have been advocating for these bills with City Council members since they were introduced in December. Over 3000 fast-food workers and their allies signed a petition in support of the four pieces of fast-food legislation: https://buildingworkers.org/press-releases/fast-food-workers-sign-petition-fair-work-week-good-jobs/.
The bills also had widespread support from New York City unions and community groups, including 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East; CWA District One; DC 37; Legal Services Staff Association, NOLSW/UAW 2320; New York Taxi Workers Alliance; Ofﬁce and Professional Employees International Union, Local 153; Professional Staff Congress; Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW; ROC United; Teamsters Joint Council 16; NAACP New York State Conference; National Action Network; National Organization for Women – New York City; Planned Parenthood of New York City; A Better Balance; ALIGN; Avodah; Center for Popular Democracy; Citizen Action of New York; Community Service Society; Community Voices Heard; Faith in New York; Greater New York Labor – Religion Coalition; Habonim Dror; Hispanic Federation; Jews for Racial and Economic Justice; Make the Road NY; Mission and Social Justice Commission of the Riverside Church in the City of New York; National Employment Law Project; National Income Life Insurance; National Institute for Reproductive Health; New York Communities for Change; New York Immigration Coalition; New York Latina Advocacy Network, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; Riders Alliance; The Workmen’s Circle; T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; United Hebrew Trades – New York; Jewish Labor Committee; and the Working Families Party.
Mayor de Blasio is expected to sign the bills into law in the coming weeks.
“Fast food and retail workers suffer from unpredictable schedules and incomes that make it hard for them to create budgets, schedule child care, or pursue education,” said Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “DCA and its Office of Labor Policy and Standards are committed to creating a new generation of minimum labor standards to protect vulnerable and low-wage workers, particularly those who are immigrants, women, or people of color, many of whom work in the fast food and retail industries. We are proud to support this package of legislation that will require employers to institute fair scheduling practices in these industries so that workers can better support themselves and their families.”
“A Better Balance was proud to be part of the coalition that has worked for over a year to enact legislation to protect low-wage workers from abusive scheduling practices that make it difficult to work and care for a family. The package of laws enacted today is the strongest scheduling legislation in the country, insuring that fast food workers will have advance notice of their schedules, will have enough time for rest between shifts and will have access to hours of work they need to support themselves and their families. We congratulate the Mayor and the City Council for making a worker’s right to a fair schedule a priority and SEIU 32BJ for their leadership on these issues,” said Sherry Leiwant, Co-President of A Better Balance.
“We are thrilled that New York City has joined cities and states across the country in ensuring working people have balanced and flexible workweeks they can count on. These reforms will give working people the chance to support their families, stay healthy, and build thriving communities. Tens of thousands of working parents and students in New York will now have the flexibility they need to balance their responsibilities on and off the job. We know this vote will inspire other cities to act and other workers to stand up for the same commonsense standards. It’s clear that the movement for a fair workweek is catching fire and we only expect it to grow,” said Elianne Farhat, Campaign Director for the Fair Workweek Initiative at Center for Popular Democracy.
The Fight for $15 started in New York City in 2012, when 200 brave fast-food workers walked off their jobs, demanding $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation. The movement has spread around the world. Once considered a long shot, workers have won $15 in California and New York State, in cities like Washington, D.C. and Seattle, and in companies and industries all around the nation. Learn more at fightfor15.org.
With 163,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 80,000 in New York City, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.