Warren presents plan to empower part-time workers

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is offering a proposal to give part-time workers more control over their work schedules. Here, Warren talked with voters at Coffee Coffee on South Broadway in Salem last week.

CONCORD -- Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed a plan to give part-time workers more bargaining power over their schedules.

The Warren campaign said despite New Hampshire’s low unemployment rate, the policies would help in a state that over the last decade has seen pay for its lowest-wage workers decline compared to inflation.

Warren said this Fair Work Week plan is meant to augment earlier proposals she has offered to boost the labor movement and help workers deal with the impact that technology has on their jobs.

"But as I travel the country talking to workers at town halls and in selfie lines [where supporters can get their pictures taken with the candidate], I hear that too many face another giant challenge in supporting their families: unpredictable work schedules that leave them with too few hours to afford necessities and no control over their time," Warren said.

"Over the last decade, many employers — especially in the retail and service industries — have adopted 'just in time' scheduling practices that use algorithms to assign workers hours in real time. In some cases, work assignments change by the hour, based on factors like customer demand, the time of day, the time of year, or even weather."

For all who work at a company with 15 or more employees, Warren's plan would require these business owners to give two weeks of advance notice of work schedules and pay workers more for any changes in that schedule.

She also would require that workers have the right to turn down hours that are not originally listed.

"A large new groundbreaking study of 30,000 retail and food service employees found that 80% of workers have 'little to no input into their schedules' and nearly 70% are required by their employer to be 'open and available' to work at all times,'" Warren said in her plan.

"And too often, variable schedules mean that workers have to work the closing shift one day and the opening shift the next, leaving too little time to rest or take care of crucial errands."

State Rep. Nicole Klein Knight, D-Manchester, said Warren identifies with struggling families.

“Elizabeth’s family was able to make ends meet thanks to her mother working a minimum wage job. Today the rising cost of housing, health care, and child care means that working families still struggle to make ends meet – and unpredictable work schedules and unfair scheduling practices make it even harder. Elizabeth knows we need to protect the rights of all workers, including part-time workers," Klein Knight said.

Warren returns to New Hampshire to campaign with town hall forums at New England College in Henniker Friday and Rye Junior High School in Rye Saturday.

Last fall the nonpartisan New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute completed a report that found workers here that made less than the median wage of $20.95 per hour in 2018 experienced a pay cut compared to inflation.

The same report found the largest pay increases came to those in the highest income brackets in the state.

The study found that for the bottom half of income categories, wages actually declined compared to inflation during the past decade. 

The decline was small for those in the middle of the income range, less than 1%, but some groups saw their relative wages fall by almost 3% over that period.

Warren's plan also would make the owners of companies with 15 or more employees consider in good faith requests from workers about their scheduling and provide an explanation for why those requests can't be approved.

And these firms could not compel workers to report on the job any earlier than 11 hours between shifts and would have to pay workers more if they voluntarily came in earlier than that.

The owners of firms with at least 500 workers would have to ask employees how many hours they wish to work and when. These employers would have to give eligible part-time workers additional hours before new workers or contractors were hired to do the same jobs.

Warren also would seek to provide part-time workers benefits such as paid family leave and retirement plans.

"American workers have too little power and it allows big companies to rake in giant profits while squeezing working families to the breaking point," Warren said.

"My Fair Workweek plan will help shift power back to part-time workers — helping up to 27 million Americans, and along with my other plans, producing the kind of big, structural change we need to create an economy that works for everyone."

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