In the second of two unexpected deferments on Tuesday, the D.C. Council postponed the first full vote on legislation that would mandate retailers and chains with 40 or more venues give staff two weeks notice of work shifts—or face penalties.
At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs, removed the vote from the legislative agenda, citing “some unreadiness” among his colleagues to advance the bill in its current form. Although it was approved on the committee level 3-2—with dissents from Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen—Orange acknowledged outstanding concerns over the act.
Business boosters have criticized the proposed law because it would arguably dissuade entrepreneurs from expanding as well as discourage major companies from taking root in the District. Still, the amended committee print reduced the required number of weeks of advanced notice from three to two, and ratcheted up the eligibility floor for locations from 20 to 40 employees. Labor advocates note some firms already give their workers early schedules, and low-income staff need help.
Under the bill, employees would be entitled to modest compensation if their managers change work shifts within 14 days of their start. But industry-backers contend that the law would result in “unexpected consequences”; contrary to its intent, they say, it would curb business’ and workers’ ability to be flexible for unpredictable circumstances. (The bill has carve-outs for things like extreme weather, cancelled events, and Metro closures, but Allen last week said these were “vague.”)
Joe Rinzel, a senior vice president at the Virginia-based Retail Industry Leaders Association, said in a statement that the proposal “would hurt economic development in the city,” calling for a newly formed working group to study the mandate.
“Mayor [Muriel] Bowser has commissioned a Task Force to address the various workforce issues that have come before the Council, and we request that this group be allowed to carefully consider the impact scheduling mandates will have on economic development and job growth before the Council considers legislation,” Rinzel said. (A spokesperson for the mayor told City Paper earlier this week that the administration was reviewing the bill, and seeking “the right balance.”)
But those who argue that “just-in-time scheduling” disproportionately harms low-income workers—preventing them from arranging childcare and making their income less predictable—say they’re not willing to back off from robust legislation.
“More and more longtime residents are pushed out every day when they can’t get access to enough hours of work or keep a job with constantly changing hours,” said Ari Schwartz, the lead organizer for D.C. Jobs With Justice. “We expect that the Council will hear out any reasonable business concerns but in the end will remember that they represent the people of the District, not the billion-dollar corporations.”
The Council will vote on the bill on first reading at an additional legislative meeting on July 12, before its summer recess.