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Seattle Workers And Performers To Present Stories Of Struggling With Erratic Work Schedules

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Ashley Gross
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KPLU
Ally Beckwith, a student and barista, will be performing at the storytelling event

Seattle’s City Council has been working on possible ways to help employees who struggle with erratic work schedules. Tonight, the labor group Working Washington and the news and politics blog Seattleish are hosting a storytelling event with performances from a barista, a retail worker and writers. 

One of the performers is Ally Beckwith, who goes to Seattle Central College full time and works full time as a barista at Caffe Vita. She said she gets her schedule two weeks in advance and doesn’t have too many complaints, but she’s been talking with a lot of other hourly workers employed elsewhere and has heard from many that their hours fluctuate a lot.

"If you can’t plan how many hours you’re going to be working, you can’t budget," she said. "How are you supposed to budget if you don’t know how big or how small your paycheck is going to be?"

Beckwith is going to perform a rap at the story slam, incorporating the stories she's heard from other workers. 

Seattle City Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Mike O’Brien will also be at the performance. Herbold and Council Member Lorena Gonzalez have been taking the lead on legislation to help make workers’ schedules more predictable, and Herbold said it will likely be introduced late next month.

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has said the city needs to move thoughtfully and that a one-size-fits-all approach would create more problems for employees. 

Herbold chairs the city council's civil rights, utilities, economic development and arts committee, which has been getting regular reports from stakeholder groups, including business owners, on the issue of worker schedules.

Herbold said one issue she will likely address in her legislation is whether to compensate workers when employers change their hours abruptly.

“If they were expecting to work, for instance, a six-hour shift and they get sent home after four hours, should they get paid for part of that time that they’re sent home?" Herbold said.

The city hired a University of Washington professor to conduct a survey of workers and employers about scheduling issues, and Herbold said that report will be done in about a month. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.
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