Boston's City Council is taking up a proposal that would mandate new employee protections for any companies doing business with City Hall.
At Wednesday's City Council meeting, At-Large Councilor Michelle Wu offered an ordinance she’s calling a “Fair Work Week” bill.
The measure would require all city contractors to give their employees at least two weeks’ notice before changing their schedules. It would also require those employers to compensate workers for late schedule changes.
“This is a larger issue where we see part time workers or hourly wage workers given very tenuous schedules,” Wu told WGBH News.
“They're changed at the last second after everyone's already arranged for child care, appointments for health care- often these workers are balancing multiple jobs, or work and school — and it just makes stability really hard to hold onto.”
The bill would effectively bolster another city law that’s been on the books since the 1990s — the city’s “living wage” ordinance that requires city contractors to pay employees a minimum “living wage” of just under $15 an hour.
Wu says she was inspired in part by the plight of Boston Marriott Hotel workers, some 1,500 of whom are now on strike, demanding better compensation and better working conditions.
Those workers wouldn’t benefit from the proposed protections — the city can’t generally tell private employers how to treat their workers.
But it can call the shots for companies getting taxpayer dollars. Wu says the city can act to protect those workers, and set an example.
“This is about making sure that our city dollars, the taxpayer dollars that are funding services, funding jobs, are funding good jobs,” Wu said, “Jobs that are subject to the highest standards of fairness.”
While relatively narrow in scope, it's one of a flurry of proposed ordinances that have come out of an increasingly emboldened city council.
In the last year, the Council passed a plastic bag ban; essentially re-wrote and rammed past City Hall a long-awaited measure requiring those lobbying city hall to disclose their activities; and another measure offered by Wu a week ago would create significant changes to how sustainability measures for new developments are evaluated and approved.
This is just the first step for Wu’s "Fair Work Week" proposal — she said expects public hearings, public debate and, likely, negotiations.
It's unclear how many individuals the current iteration of the ordinance would affect.