A Trader Joe's employee assists a customer.

On-call and part-time employment is on the rise. But some on-call employees complain that unpredictable schedules create burdens when it comes to going to school or finding childcare. That’s prompting some cities like San Francisco to propose new protections for workers, such as extra pay and advance notice of shifts.

Eric Mar, San Francisco supervisor representing District 1
Carrie Gleason, director of the Fair Workweek Initiative Organization at The Center for Popular Democracy
Walter Stella, shareholder at The Miller Law Group, an employment-only law firm in San Francisco, who has represented employers for over 20 years
George Miller, U.S. congressman representing the 11th District of California and a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee

  • ES Trader

    Fair or not it is the sign of the times that reflects the demand by business for help as they respond to consumers as a result of many factors over decades including globalization, deregulation of various industries, the tech revolution, over expansion by retailers and Fed policy under Greenspan, who kept interest rates too low for too long following dot com bubble and 911.

    The balance between supply and demand of the 3 components of the economy ( consumer, industry, government ) will require time for the ” invisible hand ” to work.

    Government intervention, ( big bank bail-out, GM bailout, social services expansion ) serves as a quick fix to alleviate economic pain but does not focus the “out-of focus” Big Picture.

    Jobs and wages are simply the intersection of the supply and demand graph of labor and enterprise; when the cycle changes the demand for part time labor will fall and wages and benefits will rise and the pendulum will swing the other way.

  • Mark SF

    Employers break up full time shifts and use part time workers for short term “savings”. Managers get bonuses based on these short term gains. There is also a higher turnover of managers. This bonus structure and turnover reinforces the hiring of part timers in place of full timers. For a company the short term savings hurts them in the long term. Hiring part timers with high turnover leads to an increase in recruitment, training, inexperience and efficiency costs in the long term. Companies have only themselves to blame.
    Having health insurance primarily obtained through companies has also contributed as companies avoid costs by hiring part time. Taking health insurance out of the hands of companies as part of their decision making will help. The Affordable Care Act partially helps in that direction.

  • ES Trader

    While I admire Rep Miller’s positions on many issues, if someone must commute from SJ to SF for a fast-food part-time position, something is very wrong with that workers skills, the resourcefulness and background in general that put him/her in that position.

    • Emily Moses

      Hourly wages are usually higher in SF. It makes sense for someone to live in an inexpensive part of the East Bay or SJ and commute to SF (which normally takes an hour on public transit) because it’s worth the extra few dollars an hour. It has nothing to do with that individuals resourcefulness or anything that worker could do to control their situation. They need the extra money, they swallow the commute.

      • ES Trader

        Economists would call that comparative advantage but have you ever commuted to The City to work ? BART is not inexpensive for min wage earners.

        I have and though work was in the financial district and convenient for BART or even car pool. its no fun especially at first rain or traffic incident.

        I came in around 6AM on Bridge so traffic was smooth but I used to glance out the window at the traffic on Bridge after 8 and usually most of morning as slow & brutal.

        I know minimum wage in The City is higher but to pay for commute in/out for a few hours of min wage would negate the diff in pay.

        Anyway, I have empathy for all that are suffering with multiple part time work and inflexible management but business is created to service its customers and to make a profit and social welfare is not part of the mandate.

        People need to be creative, I read a story in the Chron a few months ago about people that have created their own business of dog walking and earning probably 2 – 3 x a full time minimum wages. It beats the hell out of flipping burgers,

        • Emily Moses

          Yeah, for four years. I took BART and it was excellent.

          To answer your question on pay rates in SF vs. east bay or SJ: Recently I’ve been offered the same exact job in both Oakland and SF. The Oakland job pays $13 an hour (this is standard across the board in the east bay, not low at all), the SF job pays $26 an hour (also very standard rate in SF amongst the jobs I’ve applied to.) I will be taking BART or the AC transit but across the bridge, and it is absolutely economically rational to take the extra money for the hour and 20 minute long commute!

          I think your heart is in the right place, but you may not realize the incredible economic incentives that come with working in SF as opposed to more economically depressed areas in the bay area, regardless of commute time.

          • ES Trader

            Im happy for you but that is due to the skills you learned and you are not working at McDonalds or Pop Eye

          • Emily Moses

            That doesn’t matter. The point of this discussion is of part-time employees. I am a part-time employee and both of those jobs I mentioned are part-time. It doesn’t matter where you work or what industry you are in, part-time employees have been taken advantage of and we definitely need some protections from businesses who consider us robots and can simply get rid of us when we ask for a day off to take care of kids or go to a doctors appointment.

          • ES Trader

            The tide will eventually turn and full-time work w/ benefits will be available unless one chooses to stay in part time, markets always go thru corrections the pendulum swings too far before it reverses and the cycle repeats itself until it stabilizes in the center for awhile.

            The financial mess that Greenspan allowed to develop with low fed funds rate following dot com and 911 and exacerbated with W’s disasterous invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan that put us at the edge of Depression will eventually pass.

  • Lance

    As one of the guests mentioned there are federal protections in place. Justice for employment abuse is still in favor of the business that can afford to pay for lawyers.

  • Ben Rawner

    How is online retail changing this landscape? Also, what about workers who voluntarily leave early or not show up?

  • Clarissa SF

    I’m curious as to how many people in the Bay Area are in my situation- working two part time jobs to make up for the difference of one full time job. Often times I’m left working a double shift between both employers and not receiving overtime, let alone sick pay, vacation, or health benefits, all the while trying to finish my degree. With an increase to the minimum wage that would surely take some of the burden away.

  • Kathryn Hopping

    I worked full-time for Barnes&Noble for awhile. A single mother, who was working part-time, with 3 children was having trouble getting to her night shift when one of her children got very sick. I told her I would ask to cover her shift. When I asked, I was told “no.” So since I had benefits (sick leave and vacation) I asked if I could donate my earned time. At first the boss said okay. The next thing I knew, the woman was fired.

  • Karl Urban

    One of your guests said something that is being overlooked: predictability, or the lack thereof, is one of the costs of doing business, and that cost should not be shouldered by employees. Do not businesses of all sizes receive some benefits from government, either in the form of tax breaks or actual subsidies? I see this issue as a symptom of modern American culture in general: profits and the bottom line have trumped basic human decency.

  • Another Mike

    So, where are the lawyers who represent employees?

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Whatever happened to “tele-commuting”? That was the promise of the future and it certainly saves gasoline ! It also saves energy and cost to set up rooms and supplies. With Skype and a host of other technologies, it is inexplicable that tele-commuting never caught on.

    • Another Mike

      Most of the jobs being discussed are low wage retail or healthcare. Easier to automate those jobs than to figure out how telecommuting would work.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor