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Common-sense changes to make Philly’s Fair Workweek law truly fair | Opinion

How a few small tweaks can make the proposed legislation work better for everyone.

Fast food and retail workers march and chant through Center City to fight for Fair Workweek legislation on February 13th, 2018.
Fast food and retail workers march and chant through Center City to fight for Fair Workweek legislation on February 13th, 2018.Read moreJAMES BLOCKER / Staff Photographer

I represent a coalition of leading companies in the food service, hospitality, and retail sectors. Our group supports the concept of a Fair Workweek law in Philadelphia, which would require companies with more than 250 employees and more than 30 locations to give workers their schedules 10 days in advance and pay them if changes are made after the fact.

Let's make that point again for those who are convinced that the effort to enact Fair Workweek legislation in City Council is a showdown between workers verses bosses, or us verses them: The business community supports the concept of Fair Workweek.

Our coalition represents retail businesses, the hotel and food-service sector, and other major companies that would be impacted by the legislation, and while we think the current bill needs some modifications, we want to work with Council to make it happen. Some supporters of Fair Workweek legislation have tried to demonize anyone who quibbles with specifics of the law. Instead of arguing, we'd prefer to work together to enact legislation that is fair for everyone.

>> READ MORE: Fair Workweek first step in better working conditions for Philadelphians | Opinion

We want a bill that is a win for workers and businesses alike — and we pretty much already agree on the major objectives. For example, our coalition supports:

  1. Giving employees a predictable schedule;

  2. Providing "predictability pay" to employees, particularly when schedule changes are not the fault of the employee;

  3. Allowing current employees an opportunity to access additional hours; and

  4. Giving employees an estimate of hours so that they can plan their daily lives.

But the bill needs some common-sense changes, so that it will work for everyone.  We have conducted a comprehensive survey of workers who actually would be impacted by the current proposal, and they tell us over and over again, that they want the flexibility to decide whether to accept more or less hours on the job.

For example: If an employee's schedule is altered, we agree that warrants predictability pay to compensate for the change. But many employees say they want the freedom to adjust their schedules. What if a server wants to finish serving his tables instead of automatically stopping at the end of the shift?  The current bill mandates predictability pay if workers stay on the job, which eliminates that option for the worker.  It's a simple tweak in the bill.

Similarly, circumstances can change within the 10-day posting period. If additional hours become available, we, as managers, want the right to issue a mass communication to tell our workers about it so that they have the option to pick up extra hours.  But as currently written, the Council bill prohibits employers from doing so.  Again, it's an easy change that does not alter the key provisions of Fair Workweek, and we urge Council members to consider it.

The legislation currently imposes a penalty if employers do not provide at least 10 hours of rest between shifts.  But 21 percent of the respondents in our survey say they prefer closing one night and opening the next morning. Or picking up an extra shift later in the day after working a morning shift. Let's find a way to build this flexibility into the bill.

>> READ MORE: A vote for Philly's Fair Workweek legislation is a vote for decency | Ronnie Polaneczky

It's also important to recognize that Philadelphia is not Seattle, San Francisco, or cities where Fair Workweek has been enacted.  Our poverty level is the highest of any major city in America.  We should enact a bill that achieves workers' objectives, but not at the expense of creating disincentives for new businesses to invest here, to locate here, and most importantly, to hire here.

We agree that Fair Workweek is a concept that can make sense for Philadelphia, and we stand ready to work together to create a law that will be a model for the rest of the nation.

Melissa Bova is vice president of Government Affairs for the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.