April 5, 2016

Michael Wasser

Business Executives Support Stable Schedules for Working People. Why Are Chamber Lobbyists Fighting Them?

We already knew that chambers of commerce, at the national, state and local levels, lobby against the interests of working Americans. Yesterday we learned that these business groups might be lobbying against their own members’ interests too.

In a leaked webinar, a member of conservative pollster Frank Luntz’s firm reviews the results from its poll of business executives, most belonging to a chamber of commerce. The poll reveals that a majority of chamber members (78 percent in favor, 11 percent against) support rules that would require employers to provide advance notices of schedules and end “on-call” shifts that force people to schedule their lives around work with no guarantee of pay. The poll also found these executives overwhelmingly support boosting the minimum wage (80 percent to 8 percent) and expanding paid leave (83 percent to 5 percent) standards.

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In the same breath, the presenter from Luntz’s firm offers a messaging strategy for defeating campaigns that would create a fair return on work – training the chambers’ top lobbyists to oppose the very policies their members support. The lobbyists are urged to cloak their rhetoric with empathy and to talk about “personal protections.”

We know how this charade plays out in the fight to create sustainable schedules. Conservative front groups claim that predictable scheduling policies will restrict the ability of employers to provide their employees with flexibility.

It’s a claim that doesn’t hold. A truly flexible workplace allows working people to plan and to balance life and work responsibilities. Right now too many employers, particularly those in retail and food service, foist upon their employees erratic, unpredictable schedules that makes it hard to budget, arrange child care, pursue an education or hold another job. Nearly 20 percent of respondents in our survey of people who work in Washington, D.C., in the service sector reported that their employer retaliated against them when they sought schedule adjustments. Forget flexibility, current scheduling practices contort too many people’s lives to the breaking point for their employer’s sole benefit.

Members of chambers of commerce are correct. People should have sufficient notice of their schedules. That’s why broad support exists for creating new standards to ensure people have sustainable schedules – including from the business community, as this poll shows. It’s also why working people won the Retail Workers Bill of Rights in San Francisco and why a similar measure led by DC Jobs With Justice is gaining momentum. It’s time that the chambers of commerce joined its members and our communities in supporting better schedules for working people everywhere.

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