Fair scheduling is about respect

A College Park Ikea worker advocates fair scheduling practices.

Last year, my hourly wage at IKEA was raised by two dollars. While that's a substantial wage bump in the retail industry, it doesn't make up for another problem that affects millions of retail workers like me — the lack of predictable schedules or steady hours.

I work at the IKEA store in College Park. Like many retail workers, I'm struggling to survive in a part-time job where shifts can be cut short without any notice.

My part-time position at IKEA gives me 20-30 hours per week, which is not enough to make ends meet. I want to work full-time, but for retail workers, a full-time job doesn't mean what it used to. At IKEA, full-time workers are only guaranteed 32 hours per week. I would get a second job, but I am required to keep my schedule open if I want any chance of getting shifts. I arrange my life around IKEA, but I still can't depend on actually working the hours that I am scheduled for. A 30-hour week can quickly turn into 25 hours if management decides to cut short a few shifts. My manager tells me that IKEA's wages are very competitive, but at part-time hours, my last paycheck was only $719 for two weeks work.

For the past year, my co-workers and I have been speaking out to make IKEA a better place to work. We want a living wage, full-time, predictable schedules and a union voice with the United Food and Commercial Workers union. We want to make IKEA a better place to work, and our most important goals were full-time positions and fair wages. We even started a petition, gathered thousands of signatures and brought it to IKEA's North American headquarters in Conshohocken, Pa. IKEA raised our wages, but what the company gives with one hand, they take with the other. While I now get paid more per hour, I seem to be getting fewer hours. Since the raise, managers have been on a mission to increase the productivity of hourly work. We're willing to work harder and faster, but we're worried that workers will be sent home early without getting paid for the full scheduled shift, or even lose shifts entirely. When I am only scheduled for five hours, getting sent home an hour or two early is a big cut in my pay.

While IKEA workers in the U.S. struggle for predictable hours, our unionized brothers and sisters in Sweden, where IKEA is based, negotiated a policy with the company so that every worker gets their schedule a full year in advance. Workers know their days off, and can make their dentist appointments and plan trips home to see family months ahead of time. IKEA even worked with the Swedish retail workers' union to make getting enough hours more predictable by increasing the number of full-time positions. If a successful company like IKEA can set their schedule 365 days in advance in Stockholm, then American retailers can give workers that same courtesy 21 days in advance in Maryland.

That's why I support Maryland's Fair Scheduling Act (HB 969) — legislation that would require an employer to post the employees' initial schedule at least 21 days in advance, and notify the employee within 24 hours of any changes made to their initial schedule. The legislation also protects workers like me by guaranteeing that we are paid for the hours that we are scheduled to work.

The Fair Scheduling Act is about the respect of getting paid for your time and not being asked to work harder and faster so that your manager can send you home early. It's about making it possible to balance being a good worker with being a good parent or a good spouse. It's about showing respect to workers like me who work hard to make our stores successful. By standing up and speaking out, IKEA workers are doing our part to make retail jobs good jobs that support working families. I urge the Maryland State Legislature to do their part by passing the Fair Scheduling Act. The hard working families of Maryland deserve nothing less.

Derek Dutch works at the IKEA store in College Park, Maryland. His email is derekdutch90@gmail.com.

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