Vincent Orange is gone from the D.C. Council, and now, so is a bill he once heralded.
During their first session after summer recess, District lawmakers voted 9-4 Tuesday to table legislation Orange introduced in December to regulate how food and retail chains with more than 40 establishments nationwide assign work hours for their employees. Specifically, the measure would have required these big-box stores to give staffers at least two weeks of advance notice about their schedules, and would have penalized them at varying rates for changing shifts within that timeframe. Labor advocates said the bill was necessary to curb the abusive practice of “just-in-time scheduling,” where employees have to make last-minute arrangements to report for work, including child care, missing school, or forgoing a part-time position. In reply, industry groups warned that the legislation would make D.C. less business friendly.
Without much ado today, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans—who chairs the Council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue—successfully motioned to indefinitely table the bill from consideration. This means it’s almost sure not to come up for a formal vote during the remaining three months of this Council session, in effect “kill[ing]” it until at least next year, as At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman—one of the bill’s supporters—noted in a statement. Silverman said she will convene working groups with business and labor representation to review its provisions and address her colleagues’ concerns. She added that the Seattle City Council unanimously supported a similar bill just yesterday, joining the ranks of San Francisco, which has what labor advocates call a “fair hours” law on the books. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also voiced support for such regulations.
Groups on both sides were quick to react. Joe Rinzel of the Virginia-based Retail Industry Leaders Association said in a statement that the bill would have hampered economic development and put D.C.’s progress “in jeopardy.” Meanwhile, Ari Schwartz, a lead organizer for D.C. Jobs With Justice, says that his peers were “extremely disappointed and angry with the majority of the Council,” who “turned their backs” on working-class residents. Asked about a concurrent paid family and medical leave bill working its way through the Council, which legislative leaders have signaled they’re focused on passing this year, Schwartz says there shouldn’t be a trade-off between policies that families would benefit from as D.C. living costs balloon.
“What we saw is there’s a narrative that’s been going around the Council that they think it’s too much to address family leave and fair scheduling at the same time,” he explains. “And to that we say, that’s just the basics of what people need to survive in D.C., especially when emergencies happen in their life. We reject that argument.”
Evans’ office has not returned a request for comment. We’ll update this post if we hear back.
Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, one of the dissenters, says most of her colleagues showed that they’re not interested in stability for workers. “We’ll try again next year, but we needn’t have stopped short today.”