One of the biggest problem facing low wage workers is their schedule. Many companies have turned to work models such as “on call” scheduling that gives employees little control over their time or their lives. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos reports that a group of Democratic senators and representatives have proposed “The Schedules That Work Act.” This bill would give workers at companies with 15 or more employees the right to request changes in their schedule, especially in cases related to health concerns or child/elder care. It would also give employers incentives not to use on call schedules or split shifts. Clawson is a realist. She notes that this bill means nothing as long as Republicans control the Senate and House.
This is a problem since many experts think the House will stay in Republican control into the next decade. What can workers do? First, they should consider schedule to be as important as salary. Next, if they have to take a low wage job or one with a bad schedule, they need to keep looking for a better job. Over the last 25 years, we’ve seen that employers have no loyalty to employees. Layoffs are part of doing business. Workers have to take the same attitude. If you’re in a bad job, keep looking for something better. When you find it, layoff your employer.
Huffington Post reports that 9 Senate Democrats are proposing to expand the guidelines for what workers will receive overtime for working more than 40 hours in a week. A bill proposed by retiring Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa would raise the very low threshold used to make employees exempt (not eligible for overtime). The current limit is $455 per week (about $22,000 annual). The Democrats would phase in increases that would raise the limit to $1,090 per week (about $54,000 annual).
This is a great proposal because it would be an immediate improvement for those making more than the minimum wage, and it would eventually even help the middle class. Critics will say that employers will just cut hours and make more positions part-time. The problem with that claim is that many companies who have tried to do this are getting what they pay for: bad work from employees who will leave the first chance they get. Given the current political climate, this bill – like the minimum wage – has almost no chance of passing. What it does do is change the conversation. Democrats are trying to find ways to help the middle class. Hopefully, some Republicans will join with them and do the right thing for hard working Americans.
I live in Chicago, a city where our Democratic mayor fights unions, especially the brave members of the Chicago Teachers Union. Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson introduces us to another “tough love” Democrat, Rhode Island Treasuerer Gina Raimondo. This public servant has been attacking public work pensions in the name of “reform,” which really means screw the workers and pay the bankers. Raimondo is rumored to be a candidate for Governor. Hopefully Daily Kos and other liberal groups will educate workers about who this “Democrat” really is.