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Mayor Kenney signs Philly’s ‘Fair Workweek’ law

Philadelphia is now the second-biggest city in the U.S. to have such a law.

Supporters of the Fair Workweek bill in City Council chambers.
Supporters of the Fair Workweek bill in City Council chambers.Read moreJARED PIPER/CITY COUNCIL

Two weeks after it passed in City Council, Mayor Kenney signed the “Fair Workweek” scheduling bill into law Thursday afternoon, surrounded by the workers and organizers who helped push for it.

It was the culmination of a more than a year’s worth of organizing around an issue that mobilized and united the city’s labor community, union and non-union alike: making schedules for retail, fast-food, and hospitality workers predictable. It’s also an issue that has captured the attention of worker advocates and politicians around the country: Philadelphia is now the second-biggest city in the U.S. to have a scheduling law; New York is the largest. Cities like Seattle and San Francisco, as well as the State of Oregon, have all passed similar laws in recent years.

The law, which will not go into effect until 2020, requires large companies to give workers two weeks' notice of schedules, pay a premium if schedules are changed after that window, and offer available shifts to current workers instead of hiring new ones. It will be the Office of Labor’s role to enforce the law.

In Philadelphia, the law will affect an estimated 130,000 workers, according to the office of Councilmember Helen Gym, who introduced the bill.

OnePA, the advocacy organization that led the push for the law, kicked off its campaign in February, with hourly workers marching to City Hall alongside allies from local unions, but the organizing and groundwork for the local movement had begun months before that day.

In a Twitter thread posted earlier this month, Xpress Spa employee Madison Nardy, one of the leaders of the worker-led campaign, gave a recap of her experience, from being approached in her workplace by a OnePA organizer to getting coworkers on board to meeting with Councilmembers.

Business associations, such as the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, opposed the bill, saying it would hurt businesses' ability to be flexible and competitive in industries where unpredictability reigns.

In a letter to City Council sent shortly after the bill passed, Melissa Bova, vice president of government affairs for the restaurant and lodging association, said that even though Council spoke of working with the business community, “it became apparent that any effort to modify the legislation would be interpreted as opposition to the principles of FWW, which effectively marginalized the ability of the business community to support the bill.”

There was also movement this September on a bill in Harrisburg to strip Philadelphia of its powers to pass workplace rules, though Wolf has said he would veto it.

On Thursday afternoon, Kenney also signed a bill into law mandating that the city and its contractors and subcontractors pay workers a $15 minimum wage. The city did not have an estimate of how many workers the law would affect but said it would largely raise wages for part-time and seasonal city workers, as well as employees of social service agencies.