We want Connecticut to be a place of opportunity; a place where we have the freedom
to choose who we want to become, and a path to achieve that goal. That path to
opportunity, however, is different for everyone. For some workers, it is wide open. For
others, especially women and workers of color, it is strewn with roadblocks and
unnecessary uphill climbs. If we want to ensure everyone in Connecticut has a chance
to get ahead, then we need to understand how these roadblocks develop, and what we
can do to dismantle them.
A good starting point is how we define work. In recent years, many large companies
have moved towards using a largely part-time workforce, often to avoid offering full
benefits to their employees. Many of those positions are in theory entry-level, low-wage
jobs, a stepping stone towards either becoming a manager, or a way to gain experience
and move to a full time position.
Quite often, these part-time jobs do not pay enough to make ends meet, so workers
have to look for a second job just to cover expenses. This means having to find another
part-time position that is broadly compatible with the first one, both regarding schedules,
and not conflicting with other responsibilities like childcare, eldercare, or attending
More often than not, however, these part-time workers face erratic schedules.
Employers can change shifts or call them in for work with little or no advance notice, so
wokers cannot plan ahead. As a result, those trying to hold two part-time positions often
end up facing the choice of which one they can keep, as erratic schedules make difficult
to remain employed in both places.
Take Irene, for instance, a woman from New Haven who works at McDonalds and at a
grocery store. She has two school age kids, a car payment, rent, and plenty of other
bills to pay. In a good week, she will get 20 hours or more at the fast food restaurant
and three or four five-hour shifts at the store. Quite often, however, she doesn’t know
when she will be called in at the restaurant, so cannot tell the manager at her other job
when she will be available for a shift. Quite often, she has to decline shifts when she
gets a late call. Instead of working 40 or 50 hours, she ends up with fewer than 30,
falling short of the wages she was counting on.
We can ask people to work hard to get ahead as much as we want; if we are not letting
them work with reliable schedules, they won’t be able to work enough, let alone get
Part-time workers in retail, hospitality, and food service jobs in Connecticut are
disproportionately female and workers of color. They are more likely, then, to have to
deal with jobs with erratic schedules – and as a result, will be much more likely to have
unpredictable incomes from week to week, have a harder time going to school or finding
a second position to pay their bills.
If we want to open a path to opportunity for these workers, we must make these part-
time jobs better. We can pass predictable scheduling legislation to ensure employers
respect their workers’ time and provide jobs they can rely on. By giving workers
advance notice on when they will have to come in for work (and providing some
compensation in case of late schedule changes), we can give these workers a chance
to find a second job, go to school, or learn a trade, and find a new road ahead for
themselves and their families.
Predictable scheduling legislation, of course, is not just a matter of opportunity. As I’ve
written in the past, its impact goes beyond holding two jobs; it has a direct positive effect
on workers’ health, on family well-being, on school achievement for their children, and
even how well they sleep at night. Businesses with predictable schedules see higher
productivity and lower staff turnover. Predictable scheduling legislation is the right thing
for these workers, their employers, and our state.