Mayor Jim Kenney and a coalition of unions threw their support behind the proposed “fair workweek” bill days before a potential City Council vote and in the face of continued opposition from the business community.
“There are various interests that need to be represented, and we believe that this piece of legislation represents those interests, on balance,” Kenney said.
If the legislation passes City Council, Kenney added, “We’re ready to sign it.”
Kenney joined Pat Eiding, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the AFL-CIO; Rosslyn Wuchinich, president of Unite Here Local 274; and other labor leaders inside the headquarters of the Philadelphia Joint Board, Workers United in Center City on Monday.
Councilwoman Helen Gym, the main sponsor of the legislation; Majority Leader Bobby Henon; and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, also were present to show their support for the proposed legislation.
Eiding said the bill would offer hourly workers a sense of stability.
“This legislation will allow people to plan for doctor visits, take care of family members, go back to school and further their education — and maybe try to make a living,” Eiding said.
Wuchinich expected the bill to “completely transform” the hospitality industry by expanding the access to hours and ensuring workers can better plan their daily lives.
“We are committed as a union to bring hospitality workers, first, out of poverty, and then into the middle class where they belong,” Wuchinich said. “This bill is a huge part of it.”
The proposed bill’s most significant protections include requiring employers to provide certain hourly employees with work schedules more than a week in advance or compensating them when last-minute scheduling changes are made in some instances, known as predictability pay.
Debated since June, the proposal has failed to win the support of the business community, including the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, which were involved in drafting the bill.
Kenney said the legislation would offer union-like protections to non-union workers.
“So while these folks, who are not represented by a union, are struggling — people of color, immigrants, often taken advantage of because of those factors — until they have an opportunity to join a union, we need to have their backs and make sure they can move forward and get the American Dream, which is what we’re all after,” Kenney said.
Labor protections have been under attack at the national level, Gym said. And while other big cities, such as New York and Seattle, have passed fair workweek legislation, Gym said, Philadelphia’s version would be among the most extensive and strongest in the country.
“We are moving forward on bills led by our labor unions who are firmly looking forward to a labor movement that is deeply invested in economic dignity and justice for all working Philadelphians,” Gym said.
Henon said the legislation was borne out of the abuses from the business industry at the expense of workers.
“Because sometimes the system has been habitually abused over years and years,” Henon said. “And who suffers? That’s Philadelphians that suffer.”
If the City Council passes the bill, an estimated 130,000 service-sector employees in retail, food service and hospitality industries could become eligible for the protections. The legislation would go into effect in January 2020 for establishments with at least 250 employees and 30 locations worldwide, such as McDonald’s and Starbucks.
Proposed protections include providing 10 days advance notice of schedules, which would extend to 14 days notice after January 2021; offering predictability pay when changes are made after the deadline; allowing employees the right to make work schedule requests; and guaranteeing a worker at least nine hours of rest between consecutive shifts.
Last week, City Council approved amendments that would also create an oversight committee, carve out more exemptions for employers from doling out predictability pay, and allow exceptions for those in existing unions.
The proposed legislation would apply to most full-time and part-time hourly employees, as well as seasonal and temporary workers, but it would not apply to salaried employees in managerial positions earning more than approximately $24,000 a year, among others.
While members of the UFCW Local 1776 already have predictive scheduling, the fair workweek legislation would create a more equitable workplace by extending those protections to more workers, said Chris Naylor, legislative and political director for the union.
“It’s about time we level the playing field for everybody, that we provide fairness in the workplace,” Naylor said.
The City Council on Thursday also has a potential vote on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour for city workers and employees of city contractors and subcontractors over four years. Philadelphia mandated a $12-an-hour minimum wage for city workers, contractors and subcontractors four years ago.