Connecticut’s economy needs a ‘fair workweek’ law

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Connecticut must address its low-wage job boom. One key way to do that is by passing a Fair Workweek bill to limit on-call scheduling.

Almost half of all jobs created since the start of the economic recovery have been in low- wage industries, such as retail and fast food service, which pay less and lack the benefits, predictability, and flexibility of jobs past. This makes our families less economically secure, puts a greater strain on state budgets, and makes workers less able to contribute to our economy.

Working people in front-line service jobs, who are more likely to be women and people of color, are filling the most vacancies in the low-wage industries that have driven the state’s job recovery, but at a dangerous cost: Since the start of the recovery, racial and ethnic wage gaps have widened, leaving full-time workers with no choice but to resort to public assistance programs.

According to CT Voices’ 2017 report on Care 4 Kids in CT, Connecticut’s rising inequality, decline in high-wage jobs, increase in low-wage jobs, and other factors that prevent upward mobility have led to high levels of child poverty. Among families with children under five, over a quarter of all working parents and over half of single working parents qualify for Care 4 Kids. About 30 percent of children under five in families with one or more working parents qualify for Care 4 Kids due to their parents’ low income. Stabilizing the income of working families, many of whom qualify for and are likely enrolled in Care 4 Kids, would help lift them out of poverty and become more financially independent.

Currently, over 200,000 hourly workers are employed in retail and food service establishments alone, and there are more than 885,000 hourly workers across all service industries in our state. As such, thousands of low wage workers, many earning poverty wages, struggle to earn a stable income because of unpredictable work schedules. Employees are often forced to work with little notice, maintain open availability for “on-call” shifts without any guarantee of work, and have shifts cancelled at the last minute—even if they’ve already paid for childcare and transportation.

When parents’ and caregivers’ incomes and work hours are unstable, families struggle to meet basic expenses and arrange childcare, doctor’s appointments, and family meals. Families suffer when working people have highly variable hours and no voice in their work schedules. As a result, they struggle to spend enough time with their children and spouses.

With a fair workweek, Connecticut’s workers could better plan for childcare, pursue higher education, work toward economic advancement, stay healthy, and spend meaningful time with their families.

Connecticut is now a regional outlier when it comes to protecting and empowering its workforce and economy. Many of our neighboring states have higher minimum wages, paid family and medical leave, and fair workweek legislation on the books. New York
City has passed a fair workweek law protecting workers who have shifts cancelled or scheduled within a three-day window. And New York State is currently expanding its pay regulations to compensate employees for cancelled shifts.

For Connecticut’s economy to grow, we need to create the conditions that make success possible for the vast majority of working class families in our state. By passing a Fair Workweek bill, we can take a meaningful step in that direction.

Carlos Moreno is State Director of the Connecticut Working Families Organization.


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