Workers, Labor, Community leaders, Elected Officials Unveil New Jersey Fair Work Week Act

britnee Timberlake

Workers, Labor, Community leaders, Elected Officials Unveil New Jersey Fair Work Week Act

 Legislators joined community and labor groups from the Fair Work Week New Jersey Coalition to unveil key workers’ rights legislation sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake that aims to end unfair and discriminatory scheduling practices. Senator Nia Gill also announced her support for the legislation.

Researchers from Rutgers, UC Berkeley, and UC San Francisco Publish Data Showcasing the Prevalence of Unstable Scheduling Practices and Worker Desire for More Input into their Schedules

Trenton, NJ, January 30, 2020 —  Today, dozens of workers, labor & community leaders  from the Fair Work Week NJ Coalition announced the introduction of new legislation, sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake, that aims to end unfair and discriminatory scheduling practices in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Fair Work Week Act (S921) requires employers to provide New Jersey workers with proper notice of their schedules, adequate rest between shifts, the right to be offered more hours, and guaranteed pay for on-call or cancelled shifts.

Workers in low-wage hourly jobs in the warehouse, retail, hospitality, and fast-food industries are facing unpredictable work hours and fluctuating weekly income. These practices hinder low-wage workers and their families from earning wages that help them provide for their families and create detrimental health effects on workers and the development of their children. An overwhelming majority of New Jersey workers employed in the retail and food-service sectors report having work schedules that are irregular or non-standard and prefer schedules that are more stable and predictable.

“I am a temporary warehouse worker and a mother. My boss told me if I did not stay hours past my shift, I would lose my job. I had to choose between keeping my job, and being home for my daughter at night. I need my job to help my family pay for basic necessities. But I also need to be there for my daughter so she can grow up and be healthy. We need labor laws to help permit that temporary workers, like me, have control over our work hours so we can care for our families and our community. Thank you Senator Weinberg, Assemblywoman Timberlake, Senator Gill and Assemblywoman Huttle for supporting working women and our families.” said Nidia Rodriguez, Make the Road New Jersey member. 

As a mother of three, I shouldn’t have to fight every week for enough work hours just to make ends meet. We deserve fair and reliable hours at decent pay, so we can care for our families,” said Heidi Diemand, a United for Respect member and former Target employee of three years. “I’m proud to support the New Jersey Fair Workweek Act because we need to build an economy that works for all of us, not just a wealthy few.”

Senator Loretta Weinberg, one of the bill’s sponsors, said: “Work schedule uncertainty is an unnecessary and degrading feature of many workplaces today. I am proud to stand with Make the Road and other advocate-partners in fighting for fair scheduling practices in New Jersey.”

Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake said: “Make the Road New Jersey builds the power of working-class people throughout the State of New Jersey by organizing, and together with Senator Loretta Weinberg, I proudly stand in solidarity with the organization’s dedicated members to advocate for a fair work week. Together, we can transform New Jersey’s support for its working class, uplifting communities and creating a voice for the voiceless.”

“What we are standing for here today with our service workers is standing for social and economic justice. As we understand from Martin Luther King, Jr. said, social justice is economic justice… Our workers, Women and Men in service, deserve predictable work hours, opportunity advantages, job security, and to be able to participate in the scheduling of their work hours without the fear of retaliation. This is one of the major workers’ rights, civil rights issues, and I am so happy to be part of this fight with the Fair Work Week New Jersey coalition.” said Senator Nia H. Gill.

“Work schedules impact not only employees but their families. When individuals do not have a voice in their schedules they lose the ability to plan their lives, they lose the ability to ensure that their families are cared for. Workers need consistent schedules in order to be able to balance the demands of work and home, this legislation will ensure that they have the ability to do so.” said Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle.

Kevin Brown, 32BJ SEIU Vice President and NJ State Director said: “Passing the Fair Work Week bill would make a marked difference in the lives of tens of thousands of New Jersey families by giving workers the ability to plan their lives without facing impossible last-minute choices between caring for their families and going to work. This legislation would help stabilize working families and support their ability to build a healthier and stronger future that allows them entry into the middle class. Similar laws are already improving the lives of families in New York and Washington, DC. When employers act responsibly to give those who work for them fair and consistent schedules, it makes for a more stable workforce that benefits everyone.”

“Fair scheduling procedures allow workers to plan their basic commitments, like taking their kids to school, scheduling doctors visits, and making time with their families. These procedures also provide workers with financial predictability that they wouldn’t have otherwise. HTC is proud to stand with the Fair Work Week NJ Coalition to support this common-sense legislation.” said Rich Maroko, Vice President and General Counsel, Hotel Trades Council, AFL-CIO

We stand in solidarity with all New Jersey workers who struggle with erratic, unpredictable, and just-in-time scheduling practices,” said Christine O’Connell, URA-AFT Local 1766 President. “Workers deserve advance knowledge of their weekly work schedule in order to better manage work and family obligations.”

“Nearly 70 percent of New Jersey service workers experience difficulties with child care due to erratic work hours” said Yarrow Willman-Cole, Workplace Justice Director for New Jersey Citizen Action. “Often such caregiving  responsibilities fall disproportionately on women, who are also are more likely to have to deal with erratic and  unpredictable schedules. The Fair WorkWeek legislation championed by Senator Weinberg and Assemblywoman Timberlake will help women and families better  manage their caregiving responsibilities by being able to schedule adequate child care and deal with other health needs like doctor appointments. We urge the State Legislature to throw their full support behind a Fair Work Week for all New Jersey workers.”

Key findings from the report are:

  • Two-thirds of workers reported that they keep their schedule open and make themselves available even when they are not scheduled to work. This has implications for their ability to balance work and family responsibilities, to combine work with schooling or other pursuits, and to achieve a work-life balance.
  • When asked about their work schedule over the past month, the average worker reported a difference of 13 hours between the week they worked the most hours and the week they worked the fewest hours. In percentage terms, that is a 37% gap between the hours worked in the week with the most hours and that with the fewest, highlighting the volatility in earnings for these workers.
  • 77% of New Jersey workers in retail and food-service sectors said they would like to have a more stable and predictable work schedule.

New Jersey can stop the most abusive scheduling practices and make a difference for workers by updating existing labor laws. Currently, New Jersey labor laws do not require employers to provide hourly workers any minimum advance notice of their schedules, build in a mandatory minimum number of rest hours in between each worker’s shifts, or compensate workers for being on-call if they are not required to remain on the employer’s premises and are free to engage in their own pursuits.

New Jersey labor laws can guarantee workers with proper notice of schedule changes, time to rest between work shifts, the right to be offered more hours within their stated availability prior to their employer’s hiring of more part-time employees, and guaranteed pay for cancelled or on-call shifts that fairly compensates workers for the hours they depended upon. As the service and warehouse industries have rapidly grown in the Garden State, scheduling have not kept up.

Last year, Philadelphia and Chicago became the latest cities to pass fair scheduling legislation. Similar measures are already law in Oregon, Seattle, WA; Emeryville, CA; San Francisco, CA; and New York, NY.

The Fair Work Week NJ campaign aims to fight for fair, predictable scheduling for low wage workers in New Jersey. More than a dozen community and labor organizations have joined the campaign, including Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, CIR-SEIU, CWA New Jersey, Hotel Trades Council, Make the Road New Jersey, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Working Families Alliance, New Labor, SEIU 32BJ, Union of Rutgers Administrators, United for Respect, Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United/SEIU!, Warehouse Workers Stand Up and UNITE HERE Local 100.

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