Tuesday, October 30, 2018
City Hall, 1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19107

Testimony submitted by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia on Bill 180649

According to a recent survey of service sector workers in Philadelphia, 92% within the food service, retail and hospitality industry are satisfied with the efforts of their employer to be flexible and support work/life balance.

Like you, we want a vibrant and thriving Philadelphia where families are healthy and prosperous. Our employees, customers and future workforce live, work and learn here. The Chamber recognizes the depth of Councilwoman Gym’s concern for workers, but we are unable to support Bill 180649 as introduced or as Councilwoman Gym proposed to amend it late last week.

Though Councilwoman Gym states that her bill will help 130,000 employees, the current bill is likely to impact a total of 1,155 business establishments and 37,208, or 35 percent, of all employees in the food service, hotel, and retail trade industries in Philadelphia. We do not believe that debatable ends justify the means, given how onerous this legislation is for employers. The added compliance brought on by this bill is likely to create less flexibility for the employee when it comes to scheduling and cause a decrease in the number of part-time jobs available.

From a practical standpoint, schedules are typically posted 7 to 10 days in advance, employees regularly swap shifts upon release of the schedule, and in many cases don’t inform the employer. Currently, this is not a problem, and business continues as normal—but with this bill, business not only must document every change to the schedule but also update the schedule whenever a change takes place. Many businesses, especially those in the restaurant and hospitality industry, cannot predict schedules weeks in advance. As pointed out in numerous roundtable discussions, how would the industry have known the Eagles would win the Superbowl and when the parade would be? In the hotel industry, the booking window for business and leisure travelers is within two weeks of travel, yet the hotel would need to try and predict that ahead of time. As another practical example, if the Philadelphia School District cancels classes due to a weather emergency, employers within these industries would have no way of predicting which employees to schedule due to a sudden shift change. What is more, the employer would be penalized for calling in a new worker to replace a worker who had to leave their shift in order to pick up their child. There are many employees who choose to work in the retail or hospitality industry as a second job. If only one job is impacted by predictive scheduling and the other isn’t, it is impossible to determine availability—which means the loss of good employees who will move to other businesses not impacted by this inflexibility mandate. GAP is often cited as the example when it comes to flexible scheduling for employees, however a recent report has shown GAP has racked up over $20,000 fines as a result of working to comply with Seattle’s Secure Scheduling ordinance when the law was starting to be enforced.

Not all businesses and organizations are alike—they range in size, industry, geography, hours of operation, and personnel needs. They should be able to utilize a full set of tools in order to manage their business, employees and competitive advantage. Rather than set down one-size-fits-all rules for the City, or for broad categories of employers, we urge Council to work together to create a win-win, where workers and families thrive, and find a wide range of job opportunities.

A 2016 study of the impact of San Francisco’s Formula Retail Employee Rights Ordinance highlighted operational changes being made by employers in response to this legislation which had a detrimental effect on its workforce. Results include the following:

  • 21% of employers offer fewer part-time jobs;
  • 19% of employers schedule fewer employees per shift; and
  • 17% of employers offer fewer jobs, part or full-time.
  • Of the retailers surveyed, 6% plan to pursue self-service automated alternatives to hiring employees.

The Chamber and our members stand ready to continue this discussion toward the shared interests of workers and businesses. We urge Council’s Committee on Law and Government to vote no on Bill 180649.