It's game day, and you know what that means. The Eagles head into a major matchup with the Cowboys in Dallas this afternoon as both teams vie for division dominance ahead of the playoffs. But before kickoff, we've got a conversation with reporter Juliana Feliciano Reyes following Philadelphia City Council's passing of a "Fair Workweek" law. Her reporting on the movement to protect workers shows how the law could impact laborers and businesses throughout the city.
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Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week, Philadelphia became the latest city to pass a "Fair Workweek" law. Workers launched a campaign to fight for more predictable scheduling nearly a year ago and reporter Juliana Feliciano Reyes has followed the movement closely. We caught up with her to discuss the passage of the law, what it means for Philly workers, and what she learned along the way.
What are some of the highlights of Philly's new Fair Workweek law that will benefit workers?
The law, which will go into effect in 2020, aims to give more predictability to retail, fast-food, and hotel workers' lives by requiring large businesses to give two weeks notice of their schedules. If employers change schedules after that, they'll have to pay workers "predictability pay." It's a big deal for workers because some have said that they're getting called the night before and getting asked to come to work and if they say no, they won't get offered hours again.
Employers must also offer available shifts to current employees instead of hiring more part-time workers, which could make a big difference to hourly workers who are often stuck trying to make full-time hours with two part-time jobs.
Why do some critics of the law say it will hurt business growth in the city?
Critics of the law say that regulations like these push businesses out of Philadelphia and make businesses less competitive with those that don't have to follow these laws — for example, a business out in the Philly suburbs. On the other hand, cities like Seattle and New York and the state of Oregon have a Fair Workweek law, so national chains with locations in Philly have already dealt with these regulations.
Critics also say it will lead companies to lay people off because of the costs associated with the law. The big picture concern, according to critics of the law, is that a law like this could drive companies — and jobs — out of Philly at a time when the city has seen slower economic growth than other major cities.
What initially sparked your interest in the Fair Workweek movement?
In Philly, an organization called OnePA is leading the Fair Workweek charge, though other unions and labor organizations have joined the fight. OnePA has organizers that have been going to retail and fast-food stores and talking to people about their experiences on the job and they've heard a lot of difficult stories: workers begging for hours, about wanting to go to school but not being able to schedule classes because of unpredictable hours, about getting your hours cut if you don't collect enough customer emails.
These kinds of stories are shocking to people who know how many hours they're gonna work and how much money they're gonna make every week, so they've been a powerful way to raise awareness for the issue.
What have you learned from covering the Fair Workweek concept from idea to law in Philadelphia?
Covering this issue made me think about the importance of centering the worker's perspective in business stories. We often write about companies like Saxby's, Five Below, Chickie and Pete's through the lens of the CEO, the investor, the Philly business community at large. But what kinds of stories are we missing when we don't talk to workers? It's something that's informed my reporting since the Fair Workweek campaign launched.
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