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There Was A March In D.C. To Protest This Shady Retail Practice

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Photo: Courtesy of Ethan Miller/Jobs With Justice.
In the past year, there's been a lot of talk (and some progress) when it comes to on-call shifts. The practice puts retail employees' schedules — and incomes — in flux: Employees have to be available for certain shifts; if they're not needed, they don't get paid for those hours set aside for (potential) work.

A march to the National Retail Federation's HQ was held in Washington, D.C., on Friday afternoon to push the NRF to stop opposing scheduling policies, namely on-call shifts. The march, which was organized by Jobs With Justice, brought out approximately 750 people.

"The National Retail Federation has been one of the leading voices in pushing back against measures that would make on-call shifts a thing of the past for men and women who work in the retail industry," Erica Smiley, Jobs With Justice's organizing director, told Refinery29. The organization's objective for the march: to bring "hundreds of the folks who are...still living the reality of on-call shifts and other unfair scheduling practices to the NRF’s front door," Smiley says.

Some stores, like J.Crew, Victoria's Secret, Urban Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Gap Inc. (encompassing all of the company's brands: Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy), have done away with the practice in recent months. Yet, some of these retailers have made policy changes solely in New York state in response to letters that the state's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, sent to 13 major retailers criticizing short-notice scheduling and questioning the practice's legality.

"It’s great that so many retailers have made progress, but there's still a lot to be done," Smiley says. "There are still plenty [of retailers] who haven't, and that means millions of men and women whose lives are turned upside down because their lives, their child care, their other jobs, and school aren't [predictable] because of on-call schedules."
Photo: Courtesy of Ethan Miller/Jobs With Justice.

In addition to serious issues with scheduling logistics, the practice's impact on financial planning is huge, too: "It's impossible to budget when you don't know how many hours you're going to work each week," Smiley says. Another issue she points out: Retailers are hiring more part-time employees to fill particular shifts, instead of giving full-time folks first dibs on working more hours.

"The NRF can help make [scheduling] norms across the retail sector," Smiley says. The march aimed to have the organization "stop keeping these policies from being realized." Hopefully, we'll see more stores nix on-call policies in the coming months, making retail employees' job feel just a bit more secure in terms of time and money.
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