CT lawmakers spotlight workers’ plight

By:  Dan Freedman
News Times

It’s a constant conundrum for low-wage workers in Connecticut and elsewhere. A single mother who arranges for day care based on an 8 a.m. shift at a fast-food restaurant is told instead to come in at 5 p.m. Another woman who takes an hour bus ride for an early-morning shift must wait around for hours off the clock until the late-afternoon rush begins. A third worker is sent home early after two or three hours because the store isn’t busy enough.

Such stories from the bottom rung of the nation’s workforce prompted Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Sen. Chris Murphy and other lawmakers on Wednesday to reintroduce the Schedules that Work Act of 2015, which they say would bring an element of predictability to lives already strained to the max by wages barely sufficient to put dinner on the table.

“Hourly workers can't plan for the future, let alone next month, when they don't know how many hours they'll work or even which days of the week they'll be expected to work,” Murphy said. He recounted how on trips back home to Connecticut he sometimes rides local bus lines to talk to workers, one of whom told him she rides for an hour to drop a child at daycare and then another hour to get to work — for a round-trip total of four hours each working day.

“The bottom line is this: In Congress, we have to assure that people who put in a hard day’s work get a fair day’s pay,” said DeLauro.

Both acknowledged that the prospects of getting pro-labor legislation through a conservative Republican Congress are very slim. But they told a crowd of mostly organized labor activists at a Capitol Hill news conference that publicizing the workers’ plight puts a spotlight on employers who commit scheduling abuses.

“Just putting legislation on the table has already elicited a response,” said DeLauro. She pointed to a Starbucks policy change last year that ended the “clopening,” in which workers who closed coffee dispensaries at 11 p.m. had to reopen them the next day at 4 a.m.