Elizabeth Warren targets unpredictable work schedules in latest campaign proposal

Elizabeth Warren.
Elizabeth Warren. Joe Buglewicz

As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, Senator Elizabeth Warren is taking aim at the retail industry with a new campaign plan that aims to change unpredictable scheduling practices that are widespread among part-time workers.

The proposal, released Tuesday, would require most employers in the retail, hospitality, cleaning, and warehouse industries to notify employees of their work schedules two weeks in advance, countering the increasingly common practice of on-demand scheduling in which algorithms assign employees to shifts at the last minute.

“Try scheduling child care when you don’t know whether you’ll be working 15 hours or 30 hours next week, and don’t know when those working hours will be,” Warren wrote in a post on the website Medium. “American workers have too little power and it allows big companies to rake in giant profits while squeezing working families to the breaking point.”


Such a change also would effectively ban companies from scheduling their workers for “on-call” shifts, in which employees are required to be available for shifts they may or may not actually work.

The campaign proposal would require legislation and is based on the “Schedules that Work Act” bill that Warren has introduced in Congress.

As she campaigns for the Democratic nomination, Warren has released dozens of plans on a wide array of topics, including health care and lobbying reform. But Warren’s work schedule plan marks a return to the workers’ rights issues that she has tried to make a defining plank of her campaign.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nearly 5 million retail sales jobs in the US in 2018, and six in 10 Americans have held a job in the industry, according to a trade group.

Warren’s proposal also would prohibit retaliation against employees who ask for scheduling changes and prevent companies from scheduling workers for back-to-back shifts with less than 11-hours in between.


The plan also targets the practice of companies turning to a part-time workforce to avoid paying expensive benefits by requiring part-time employees to be entitled to some benefits after a set amount of time with the company. Warren also would require large companies to offer extra hours to part-time employees before hiring more part-time staff or contractors.

Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.