September 18, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Despite increasing pressures from outside the workplace, more than half of the working men and women responding to a sobering new survey about jobs say that they are still too afraid to ask their employers about obtaining more realistic work schedules — and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer wants legislators at all level of government to step up and come to their aid.
“The results [of the survey] show an urgent need for legislation to create a more humane workplace,” Stringer said outside his Centre Street office on Wednesday morning.
Forty-five percent of the more than 1,100 people surveyed said that their traditional 9 to 5 work weeks precludes any scheduling flexibility to handle family emergencies that require their immediate attention. Close to 60 percent say they felt too uncomfortable to even inquire about obtaining more flexible work schedules, while over 70 percent said they would feel more comfortable about requesting flex time if all employers had a guaranteed right to do so.
“That’s why we need a right to request law right here in New York City,” Stringer said.
Assembly Member Nily Rozic [D,WF-25th District] and State Senator Dan Squadron [D-26th District] are already pushing statewide legislation that would safeguard employees interested in obtaining more flexible work schedules, and Congress Member Carolyn Maloney [D-12th District] is stewarding a bill called “Flexibility for Working Families Act” which seeks to achieve the same thing at the national level.
In addition to that, NYC chief financial officer is also urging the passage of other legislative measures that would extend paid family leave to more working men and women, as well as an end to so-called “on-call scheduling” which makes life especially impossible for shift workers expected to show up for work at unexpected hours.
“In retail, and across the service sector, workers face increasingly erratic hours due to employers’ efforts to match labor costs to consumer demand,” Retail Action Project Director Rachel Laforest said in a statement. “These scheduling practices are not sustainable: families don’t know if they can meet weekly expenses, caregivers can’t predict when they will have to arrange for care for children or relatives, and students don’t know if they will be able to attend classes. It’s time to call for worker-driven flexibility where employees’ scheduling needs are respected.”
Stringer, along with his coalition of unions and worker advocates, are calling on the New York City Council to pass a bill that would require bosses to give employees at least a 72-hour advanced warning about shift changes.
Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, said that the comptroller’s new study shows just how important it is for working New Yorkers and their families to have access to paid family leave and the right to request flexible schedules when they need them.
“Fast food and other low wage workers find it nearly impossible to arrange for childcare, attend classes or work another job due to the practice of on-call scheduling that requires them to be constantly at the disposal of their employers,” the union leader said in a statement. “As we continue to fight for access to $15 an hour and a union for all workers, we need to promote policies that ensure hard working people can take care of their families instead of allowing employers to maximize their profits at workers’ expense.”
The need for increased workplace flexibility may be well understood in the case of growing young families, but few talk about the growing need for older adults who have to take care of their aging parents. Octogenarians are now the fastest growing demographic in New York City.
The United States and New Guinea, meanwhile, are the only two nations on earth that do not mandate paid family leave.
Stringer is calling his legislative agenda the “key components” of a 21st century workplace that will benefit both employees and employers.
“These proposals will make sure New York remains competitive, not just with other major cities in the United States, but around the world,” the comptroller said.