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Seattle's 'Secure Scheduling' Proposal Clears Major Hurdle, Heads To City Council Vote

Daniel X. O'Neil via Creative Commons

Seattle may be days away from passing what some activists consider the nation's strongest worker scheduling regulations. 

The City Council's Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee voted 5-0 Tuesday in favor of the secure scheduling proposal

The committee vote was the last step before the full nine-member City Council takes up the law, expected as soon as Monday. 

Secure scheduling is a mix of rules that would govern how bosses schedule hourly workers at retail and restaurant chains like Subway, AutoZone, Target, and Home Depot that have more than 500 workers worldwide.

Among other provisions, the law would require managers to post schedules two weeks in advance, then pay extra wages to workers whose schedules are changed.

It aims to reduce practices like "clopening" - having a worker close a store late at night, then wake up a few hours later to open - and having workers wait around "on call" without being paid. 

Business representatives have spoken out against the law in recent weeks, calling it restrictive and burdensome, but were almost entirely absent from the committee meeting.

Instead, the meeting was packed with union members and activists who have rallied in support since Mayor Ed Murray and City Council members unveiled the proposal Aug. 9. Supporters say unpredictable hours make it difficult for hourly workers to care for children, go to school, or maintain a second job.

Shirley Henderson, an activist with the group Socialist Alternative, said that after the economic crash of 2007 and 2008, "many of the jobs that were added were low-wage, service industry jobs. So the issue of scheduling is no longer just affecting young people; it also is increasingly a struggle for people trying to support a family." 

Seattle would be the second city in the country, after San Francisco, to pass scheduling protections for hourly workers. Seattle activists say they consider the city's proposal to be slightly stricter than San Francisco's, which passed in 2014. 

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.