DC Just Hours Campaign


In the wake of victories for paid sick leave and a higher minimum wage, service workers across the District took note of one fundamental protection missing from the equation: stable and dependable hours that they could count on. As they pointed out, higher wages with fewer hours leaves someone in the same or worse position.

At the same time, so-called “just-in-time” scheduling—a staffing approach that attempts to algorithmically match labor to customer demand at a moment’s notice—was growing more prominent, especially in DC’s retail and fast food stores. In talking with workers and our partners, DC JWJ found that unstable, erratic hours were a common phenomenon both in and outside DC, as service industries pushed for part-time and contingent work forces. San Francisco had just become the first municipality in the country to regulate hours and scheduling in service jobs with the landmark Formula Retail Worker Bill of Rights. It became clear that winning a fair workweek was the next big fight for workers.

In 2015 DC JWJ launched a citywide grassroots survey project and its results confirmed what we had been hearing anecdotally from workers and unions. The DC Just Hours campaign was born, fighting with workers to win scheduling policy changes and full-time hours from corporations, and launching one of the first legislative campaigns to set standards on hours and scheduling.

In 2015 DC Council introduced the Hours and Scheduling Stability Act and passed it out of committee. At that crucial moment in the bill’s progression, however, its lead sponsor left the DC Council to lead the DC Chamber of Commerce. At the same time the business community put on a full court press against the effort and the remaining Councilmembers ultimately bowed to this pressure and failed to enact the law.

There were clear victories, however. Momentum from the DC Just Hours campaign helped SEIU 32BJ win its 30 hour workweek guarantee legislation. Attorney General Karl Racine cracked down on abusive practices like on-call scheduling. And the organizing and power built by DC service workers aided a nascent national movement that would go on to win new standards in various cities and states across the country.

Written by Ari Schwartz

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