Erratic work schedules create erratic family life

A new bill in Congress reflects growing awareness that work scheduling can make or break a family’s well-being.

It is easy for those of us who enjoy regular work hours to take for granted that we can plan our days and paychecks with stability. We know when we need to drop off or pick up our children at school activities or child care, and we can plan other important aspects of our lives—college classes, social or civic activities or even second jobs—around a predictable work schedule. We also know that we will be compensated for the same number of work hours every week.

Employees who have to check their schedule every week, or even every day, do not have that predictability. Their children suffer in the process.

Take the story of Jannette, who must endure frequent and sometimes last-minute schedule changes that result in disrupted sleep, difficulty finding child care, an argument with her relatives or even a breakup with a significant other.

Jannette’s life is dictated by the whims of impersonal scheduling software that takes into account customer traffic, truck deliveries and shortstaffing, but not the needs of the employees. Many businesses that still use human schedulers also subject their employees to erratic or frequently changing work hours.

Fortunately, members of Congress, including Reps. John Conyers and Gary Peters from Michigan, have proposed legislation that addresses this problem. The Schedules That Work Act would give all workers the right to request a flexible, predictable or stable schedule. Certain categories of workers would also have the right to receive such a schedule unless an employer has bona fide business reasons to refuse the request. (More on the legislation can be found here.)

The Michigan League for Public Policy supports this legislation.  It is currently in committee in both the U.S. House and Senate, and when and whether the bills receive hearings is unclear.

To help get things moving along, please let your member of Congress and Michigan’s two U.S. Senators  know that you want workers to be able to have predictable, stable and flexible work hours. Urge them to co-sponsor the Schedules that Work Act.

(Starbucks has responded to the New York Times article, saying that it will change its scheduling practices. The Center for Law and Social Policy responds that while the Starbuck changes are a start, it is not just about Starbucks, and we need public policies that protect workers.)

– Peter Ruark

F for no effort: Michigan fails working families

Workplace policies have been on the minds of many over the past two years, with minimum wage and right-to-work rising to the top of debate in Michigan.

Yet, two important labor issues have not received nearly as much thought, despite their relevance to a wide number of Michiganians: paid sick days, and family and medical leave.

A new report by the National Partnership for Women and Families, Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws that Help New Parents, could bring this issue the attention it requires. According to the report, Michigan is one of 17 states to score an F in family-friendly workplace laws for new parents, and it is the only Great Lakes state to receive this grade. Other states in the failing grade category include Alabama and Mississippi. (more…)

Minimum wage increase: A step in the right direction, but not enough

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The governor hastily signed legislation last week increasing the minimum wage to $9.25 an hour. Though this is certainly progress in the right direction, this will still keep a family of three under the federal poverty line, which is about $18,500 a year.

This was all done in an attempt to nullify the efforts of a proposed minimum wage ballot campaign to increase the wage to $10.10 an hour, which would lift a family of three above poverty by roughly $1,200.

Just think of what this could do for a family who could then better prepare for needs that arise, such as buying new school clothes for a child, being prepared for a medical emergency, or simply being able to pay their bills on time or in advance. (more…)

Senator’s claim smells fishy

Two out of the last three times the minimum wage was raised, Michigan’s unemployment rate decreased in the years that followed.

That indisputable fact makes a recent claim from state Sen. Pat Colbeck, R- Canton, surprising.

The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News reported last week the senator’s assertion that raising the minimum wage will decrease the rate of employment “every time.” This false claim needs to be corrected. (more…)

A Mother’s Day minimum wage story

Imagine being a single mother, working full time and still living in poverty. Imagine losing your job after calling for a higher minimum wage so you can earn enough to care for your children.

That’s what happened to Donyetta Hill, a hardworking mom to three children who, prior to finding work as an organizer for ROC-Michigan, was working full time at a fast food franchise in Detroit.

Donyetta’s wage was exactly the state’s minimum of $7.40 an hour, or just $1,184 monthly before taxes. This amount left her unable to put food on the table without assistance, and pay rent or other bills on time. (more…)

Could you buy your groceries on just $42 per week?

Last week was 2014’s National Week of Action, or Economic Security Week, organized by the Progressive States Network.

During this week, legislators across the nation participated in events and activities that lift up a shared progressive vision for economic security in America. In our state, Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, representing Wayne County, were two of the legislators who stepped up to take the minimum wage grocery challenge, purchasing their groceries on just $42. (more…)

What’s your agenda for Michigan?


Consider this: This November, voters will elect a governor, all 38 state senators and all 110 state representatives.

Clearly, it’s an important year for our state’s future. The Center for Michigan, described by founder Phil Power as a nonpartisan “think and do tank,” wants your input. What issues do you want elected officials to address on the campaign trail – and in the state Capitol once they are elected?

The League is hosting a Community Conversation, one of many held around the state, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, 600 W. Maple St. Lansing. (more…)

Raise Michigan raises hope

The possibility of a long-overdue increase to Michigan’s minimum wage is on the horizon with the kickoff of the Raise Michigan campaign to put the issue before voters on the fall ballot.

If successful, it will raise Michigan’s $7.40 an hour wage minimum wage to $10.10 over three years and index it to inflation. It also includes a gradual increase of the $2.65/hour “tipped” wage for restaurant servers.

With so many problems to report on – rising income inequality, growing number of low-income working moms and shrinking windows of opportunity for our young people – it’s good to be able to talk about a positive solution. (more…)

League vs. Mackinac Center on the minimum wage

Recently, I’ve had two opportunities to debate the Mackinac Center on the minimum wage. The events took place at the Hauenstein Center of Grand Valley State University and on a public affairs show on WGVU, the public station at Grand Valley.

The minimum wage has been on the minds of many lately – particularly after fast-food workers held rallies and called for an increase to $15 per hour, and a ballot campaign formally launched last month.

On one side of the debate are those who understand that $7.40 is too low – at this wage, full-time work is just $15,400 annually. On the other side are those who are opposed to increasing or even having a minimum wage at all. (more…)

Minimum wage — not just your summer job

Long gone are the days when minimum-wage jobs, such as those in food service, were the province of suburban teenagers starting their working lives. A great majority (85%) of low-wage workers in Michigan are at least 20 years old, and 82% have a high school degree or higher. Nearly a quarter of them are also parents supporting children according to a report by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

These facts suggest a reconsideration of the minimum wage, not as pocket change for teenagers, but as wages for adults who are responsible for themselves, and perhaps for young children. (more…)

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