Testimony of Ilana Boivie at the COW Subcommittee on Workforce Public Roundtable on Fair Scheduling Issues, November 3, 2016

Chairperson Silverman and members of the COW Subcommittee on Workforce, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Ilana Boivie, and I am the Senior Policy Analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. DCFPI is a non-profit organization that promotes budget and policy choices to expand economic opportunity and reduce income inequality for District of Columbia residents, through independent research and policy recommendations.

I am here to express support for fair scheduling legislation in the District of Columbia. Having unpredictable schedules and less than full-time work hours are major contributors to DC’s income inequality, stubbornly high poverty rate, and our affordable housing crisis. This economic insecurity prevents families from improving their situation and from creating stable home environments for their children. By contrast, scheduling policies that allow workers to balance their work and family life, and that support more stable and adequate incomes, will help DC’s working families as well as the broader DC economy.

 DC’s Retail and Restaurant Workers See Low Wages and Too Few Hours

DCFPI analysis finds that fair scheduling legislation stands to help improve the lives of some 22,000 low-wage District residents. (See Table 1.)

Table 1. Estimated Number of Workers Affected by Fair Scheduling Legislation, by Ward[1]
Area Number of workers
Mostly upper Northwest (Ward 3)            2,138
Mostly Ward 4, some of Ward 1 & 5            7,077
Wards 5 & 6            3,155
Wards 7 & 8            4,001
Downtown Core (Ward 1 & 2, some 6)            5,885
Total           22,256 

A 2015 report by DC Jobs with Justice, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and the Georgetown University Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working poor surveyed 436 non-supervisory hourly employees in service-sector retail and food service companies in the District.[2] We found that these workers typically earn around $10 an hour, and work 32 hours per week, for an annual income of less than $17,000.[3] Yet most of these workers are adults trying to support themselves and their families. Given this, it is perhaps not surprising that nearly all of these workers said it was important to receive more hours at their primary job.

Beyond low-wages and hours, many service sector workers find their schedules changed by their employer from week to week, often with little notice, leaving their incomes to fluctuate while their rent, food, and other bills stay the same. Our survey found that nearly half of workers receive their work schedules less than a week in advance. For the typical worker, work hours in a given week varies anywhere from 25 to 38 hours per week, creating uneven and unpredictable incomes.

Almost one-third of these workers with children under 13 reported that their work schedules negatively impacted childcare arrangements, sometimes forcing them to leave their children in less than desirable situations. Unstable or sub-par childcare can have serious consequences for childhood development.[4]

Also, one of eight workers we surveyed said their work schedules made it impossible to attend classes or job training. Scheduling practices contribute to a vicious cycle where employees are trapped in the low-wage jobs they want to leave by the demands of those very same low-wage jobs.

Part-Time and Uneven Schedules Contribute to Income Inequality and Other Problems

The low wages, part-time hours and uneven schedules contribute to DC’s very high income inequality, to a level of poverty that has not recovered from a spike during the Great Recession, and to the high housing cost burdens faced by many residents.

  • Involuntary Part-Time Work: More than two-fifths of residents without a high school degree who work part-time want full-time work but cannot find it.[5]
  • Wide Income Gaps: The average income of the poorest fifth of DC households is under $10,000. Meanwhile the top 5 percent of DC households have incomes over half a million, the highest among major U.S. cities. As a result, income inequality in the District is fourth widest among major U.S. cities.[6]
  • Significant Poverty Years into an Economic Recovery: Some 110,000 DC residents live in poverty, or less than $20,000 for a family of three. The number of poor residents is 18,000 higher than in 2007, just before the Great Recession.[7]
  • Very High Child Poverty: Poverty is especially high among children, particularly east of the Anacostia River. Half of children east of the river lived in poverty in 2014. 
  • Unaffordable Housing: Sharply rising rents in the District have led to the virtual disappearance of low-cost private housing across the city. Combined with stagnant incomes for many DC residents, a growing number of households spend the majority of their income on rent and utilities, struggling each month to maintain stable housing and afford other necessities.[8]

By providing more predictable schedules and increased work hours for low-wage workers, fair scheduling legislation can help address DC’s wide income inequality and keep families from falling into poverty.

DC’s Retail and Restaurant Industries Are Strong Enough to Manage Fairer Scheduling Practices

Finally, it should be noted that DC’s retail and restaurant sectors have been booming in recent years in the District. For

  • Over the past three years, retail and food services accounted for more than one-third of new jobs in DC.[9] Both of these sectors have seen steady employment increases since 2009.[10]
  • From April 2015 to April 2016, food service jobs increased by nearly 2,000—more than any other sector in DC.[11]
  • Re
    tail trade employment grew 6 percent over the last year, a faster rate than any other sector in percentage terms.[12]

In addition, the District is generally more able to absorb these changes to its retail and restaurant industries than other locations may be, because these industries are less price sensitive due to the city’s robust tourism industry.[13] In other words, consumers will still come to eat and shop in the District even if large chains are required to offer their workers fair scheduling practices.

Many of DC’s Employers Already Provide These Practices

Many large retail and restaurant chains, including many with stores in DC, are beginning to understand their employees’ need for advance notice of their schedules, and are adopting the practice. The Gap, Marshalls, Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods have moved to provide their employees with advance notice of their schedules, ranging from 10 days to over two weeks, according to the BCRA Committee Report of the Hours and Scheduling Stability Act of 2015.[14]

In addition, at that bill’s hearing in January, several small DC employers testified in favor of the bill, saying that they already adopt these practices, as it provides for lower turnover and higher employee morale—despite the fact that they are small enough that they would be exempt from this legislation.

This suggests that other large restaurant chains and retailers in the District can succeed while also providing fair scheduling practices for their workers.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today; I look forward to answering your questions.

[1] DCFPI analysis of ACS 3 year data for 2011-13, person file. Data covers two different reporting periods so PUMA location is not exact, but very close. The PUMA boundaries shifted slightly during reporting. Retail and restaurant locations with 20 or more employees are used as a proxy for large employers with 40 or more locations nationwide.

[2] DC Jobs With Justice, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and Georgetown University Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Unpredictable, Unsustainable: The Impact of Employers’ Scheduling Practices in D.C., June 2015 (http://www.dcjwj.org/scheduling-report/)

[3] At the time this survey was conducted, DC’s minimum wage was set at $9.50 per hour. Therefore, most of these workers are likely earning a bit more now, but are probably still relatively close to the current minimum wage of $11.50 per hour.

[4] “The Long Reach of Early Childhood Poverty.” Greg Duncan & Katherine Magnuson, Pathways, Winter 2011.

[5] DC Fiscal Policy Institute, Two Paths to Better Jobs for DC Residents: Improved Training and Stronger Job Protections. October 15, 2015.

[6] DC Fiscal Policy Institute, High and Wide: Income Inequality Gap in the District One of the Biggest in the U.S., March 20, 2014.

[7] DC Fiscal Policy Institute, While DC Continues to Recover from the Recession, Communities of Color Continue to Face Challenges, September 18, 2015.

[8] The figures in this section are from DC Fiscal Policy Institute, Going, Going, Gone: DC’s Vanishing Affordable Housing, March 2015.

[9] DC OCFO. June 2016. “Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s April 2016 Review of District of Columbia Economic and Revenue Trends.”

[10] Bureau of Labor Statistics. Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Annual averages for the District of Columbia based on NAICS sectors 722 and 44-45, 2009-2015.

[11] DC OCFO. May 2016. “District of Columbia Economic and Revenue Trends: May 2016.”

[12] Based on a 12-month rolling average. DC OCFO. May 2016. “District of Columbia Economic and Revenue Trends: May 2016.”

[13] David Cooper. “Evaluating Current & Proposed Labor Standards in DC.” Presentation for the Working Group on Jobs, Wages, and Benefits. October 14, 2016.

[14] The Committee Report is available at http://lims.dccouncil.us/Download/34952/B21-0512-CommitteeReport1.pdf