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More and more cities are approving measures that provide food industry employees less unpredictability. 

Elisabeth Sherman
July 18, 2017

America’s food industry labor movement is picking up speed: Its first triumph came in June, when New York City—the biggest city yet to do so—passed a measure that required fast food restaurants to inform their workers of their schedules at least two weeks in advance, giving employees stability at work. The law also requires that if that schedule changes last minute, the restaurant would be required to pay workers extra to make up for the lost shift’s wages, and even pays workers for being “on call.”

Now, a similar bill is awaiting the governor’s signature in Oregon, as well as in five other states, according to a report from Reuters. These laws are being championed by the “Fight for $15” campaign, which hopes to give fast food workers a $15 minimum wage and a union. The organization has been advocating on behalf of restaurant workers since 2012.

In Seattle, where the minimum wage is expected to raise to $15 by 2021, two research studies send a conflicting message about whether or not a higher minimum wage is benefiting restaurant workers, and the industry as a whole: The first study found that “Seattle’s minimum wage law is working as intended, raising pay for low-wage workers, without negatively affecting jobs,” while a second study, released a short time later, contends that while there aren’t less restaurant jobs, the number of hours restaurant employees work has gone down, resulting in a lower income.

Though there has yet to be a definitive answer how much a rising minimum wage is benefiting workers, stable scheduling is crucial to their wellbeing: Those involved in the Fight for $15 movement argue that last-minute schedule changes make it difficult to obtain child care and doctors appointments, and can have disastrous consequences for families already living on a tight budget.

The restaurant industry strongly opposes these measures. One industry advocate named Louis Meyer told the Reuters that restaurants “need flexible scheduling to survive.”  Meanwhile, Fight for $15 argues, restaurant workers need more pay and reliable schedules if they are to survive.

In the tug-of-war between the two sides, there’s seems to be no compromise yet, but the success of these bills could signal a turn of the tide in favor of the long-suffering restaurant worker.