A Philadelphia lawmaker had a sizable crowd cheering her on Thursday morning when she introduced legislation that would provide protections for 130,000 hourly workers earning the lowest wages at the nation’s largest corporations in the retail, food-service and hospitality sectors.
With the proposed Fair Workweek legislation, Democrat City Councilwoman Helen Gym aims to bring Philadelphia in line with 15 other municipalities and states who’ve adopted standards such as provisions for advance notice of schedules, a pathway to access more hours of work, compensation for last-minute schedule changes, and protection from retaliation.
Today’s announcement – which attracted community support from the Philadelphia Chapter of the NAACP and the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity – succeeded a March hearing on the issue where a number of workers lamented the circumstances of their employment.
Any hearings or votes on the proposed legislation won’t occur until the fall session of City Council. The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is expected to be among the bill’s biggest opposition.
Councilwoman Gym said the Chamber of Commerce, which called the bill “anti-growth,” has been against the Fair Workweek idea from the start.
“They were opposed to us having the hearing,” the councilwoman said. “It’s clear they have taken the most backwards and regressive step.”
Though the Chamber, trade associations and lobbyists are those who will be most opposed to the provisions in the bill, the councilwoman said she’s met with dozens of businesses in the city who favor it.
The councilwoman also said there’s a “solid core” of lawmakers here who favor the legislation. Councilman Bobby Henon, the majority whip, is among them.
“This bill will ensure dignity and respect for the hardworking people of Philadelphia,” Mr. Henon said in a statement.
Ms. Gym wouldn’t go as far as to assume that she has secured the nine votes needed to make the proposed bill a law, but she does have seven lawmakers who support the initiative, according to a communication from her office.
The councilwoman will spend the summer working on the legislation, which was informed by research that showed 66% of retail and service workers in Philadelphia report irregular and variable work schedules and 62% percent of these workers get their schedules with less than two-weeks notice.
“Restaurant workers often find out their schedules on Sunday for that week. It makes it impossible to plan child care, work a second job or attend school,” said Mr. Samuel Jones, Director of the Restaurant Opportunity Center of Pennsylvania.
Ms. Symphony Hurst became emotional this morning when she, at the lectern in City Council chambers, relived experiences working an unpredictable schedule. The mother of a four-year-old, Ms. Hurst said when she was employed by Macy’s, her hours were so low that she questioned whether she’d met the minimum 20 hours required to be eligible for certain government programs. The Overbrook resident is now working at the Starbucks in the airport, where her union job ensures a consistent 40-hour work week.
“I’ve never had this before,” Ms. Hurst said of a predictable schedule. “My body has to adjust from the constant scrambling.”
Councilwoman Gym said her bill is one of the most significant efforts the city can take to improve the lives working Philadelphians and support smart business practices.
CLICK HERE to listen to Councilwoman Helen Gym explain the proposed Fair Workweek legislation.
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