Let’s keep looking at solutions for scheduling challenges

I was dismayed last week to see the City Council vote to stop all city work on a scheduling ordinance in response to pushback from business. In explaining this decision, Council Member Jacob Frey told the Star Tribune any scheduling policy should be “narrowly tailored” to target bad actors. But instead of tailoring the scheduling proposal to accomplish these targeted goals, the City Council chose to close the door on all discussion of scheduling—turning their backs on workers like me who are in desperate need of better scheduling practices.

If I had a reliable schedule at my concessions job at Target Field, where I started as a temp worker this summer, I wouldn’t be homeless right now. I don’t know when I’m going to work until I call a number that tells me whether I can work that day. I don’t know if I’m going to work a whole week, if I’m going to work three days, if I’m not going to work at all. There is no schedule I can write down. They never post anything. Because I don’t know how many hours I will be working, I never know what my paycheck will look like—whether I’ll be able to pay for rent or groceries or daycare for my grandson.

In order to find housing, I need to know how much I will be getting paid. I can’t go to a landlord and tell him I don’t know how much I’m going to be making that month. To get an apartment, I have to prove I’m making more than the rent. As I’ve learned the hard way, you can’t live anywhere for free, not even a shelter. I can’t afford any kind of housing when my schedule changes so much every day.

The Star Tribune called the differences of opinion among City Council Members on the scheduling ordinance “a variance in vision.” But walking away from scheduling altogether is not a vision at all. It’s an attempt to score political points with the business community on the backs of workers like me who are in desperate need of better scheduling practices. 

I understand that many small businesses raised legitimate concerns about the initial scheduling proposal. Surely supporters and opponents of the proposed scheduling ordinance can agree that small snowplow companies need different scheduling accommodations than major retail chains.

But instead of digging into the hard work of crafting tailored policy that supports working families and hardworking business owners, a majority of the City Council gave up on finding solutions for scheduling at all.

Many council members say they walked away from the scheduling ordinance because it was too onerous for small businesses. But it’s workers like me, employed by large corporations like the Minnesota Twins, who will bear the cost of the City Council’s refusal to look for a compromise.

I’m not the only one who needs a solution for my work schedule. Over the past few months I’ve been organizing with workers from fast food, retail, and cleaning industries who are all experiencing similar scheduling difficulties. By closing the door on all discussion of scheduling, instead of tailoring a compromise for a scheduling ordinance, the City Council has chosen to walk away from the very real crisis facing my community. 

Workers like me don’t have the luxury to choose whether to face this crisis. We have to choose whether our paycheck this month will go toward childcare or rent. Whether we can pay for diapers or groceries. Whether we will have to put our children in a homeless shelter.

I welcome Council Member Frey’s remarks that he wants a tailored vision for scheduling that targets bad actors. If the City Council truly want to strengthen working families and grow small businesses, I invite them to work with small businesses and workers like me to create this tailored vision that will hold bad actors accountable for their scheduling practices while ensuring the success of small businesses. With our worst-in-the-nation racial disparities growing wider every month, this is not the time for our elected officials to walk away from the crisis facing so many of Minneapolis’ workers. This is a time for them to roll up their sleeves and show how they will find solutions.