New York City Council Debates Ideas for Improving Contingent Jobs

Won't back down

Workers seeking a higher minimum wage demonstrate in New York City in November. As more Americans work nontraditional jobs, state and local policymakers are trying to make sure workers have labor protections and access to benefits.

© The Associated Press

The New York City Council is considering a package of bills aimed at improving jobs for contingent workers in food service and retail, part of a push by policymakers across the U.S. to adjust to a changing labor market. 

As more Americans work part-time or take non-traditional jobs as freelancers, temporary agency workers, independent contractors or on-call workers, state and local lawmakers are proposing ways to make contingent work more stable and ensure workers have access to benefits.

Most of the six proposals being debated in New York address on-call scheduling, a practice that makes work hours unpredictable. One proposal, for instance, would ban on-call scheduling for retail employees and prohibit employers from giving workers less than 20 work hours over a two-week period.

Another would ban fast-food establishments from requiring workers to both close a restaurant at night and open it the next morning. Under the proposal, employers would have to pay workers a $100 bonus for agreeing to such a schedule. 

States have also been cracking down on on-call scheduling. Last year eight attorneys general — including New York’s Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat — investigated the practice and got six retail chains to agree to stop scheduling shifts with little advance notice. 

“On-call shifts are not a business necessity and should be a thing of the past. People should not have to keep the day open, arrange for child care, and give up other opportunities without being compensated for their time,” Schneiderman said in a December statement.

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