Hard to make plans when it’s impossible to see past your next shift

I’m really pleased this is getting attention:

As more workers find their lives upended and their paychecks reduced by ever-changing, on-call schedules, government officials are trying to put limits on the harshest of those scheduling practices.
The actions reflect a growing national movement — fueled by women’s and labor groups — to curb practices that affect millions of families, like assigning just one or two days of work a week or requiring employees to work unpredictable hours that wreak havoc with everyday routines like college and child care.
The recent, rapid spread of on-call employment to retail and other sectors has prompted proposals that would require companies to pay employees extra for on-call work and to give two weeks’ notice of a work schedule.
Vermont and San Francisco have adopted laws giving workers the right to request flexible or predictable schedules to make it easier to take care of children or aging parents. Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller, is pressing the City Council to take up such legislation. And last month, President Obama ordered federal agencies to give the “right to request” to two million federal workers.

Chaos in families is part of it and that chaos ripples, because the people caring for the children of employees with “on call” schedules also become subject to the needs of the employer. It’s not just people with children, either, and they don’t need to be attending classes or doing something considered productive and industrious to ask for predictability and order. Maybe they just want to have certain planned blocks of time where the demands of their low wage employer are not put above their own needs or desires.

It’s pretty amazing what they were getting away with:

Fatimah Muhammad said that at the Joe Fresh clothing store where she works in Manhattan, some weeks she was scheduled to work just one day but was on call for four days — meaning she had to call the store each morning to see whether it needed her to work that day.
“I felt kind of stuck. I couldn’t make plans,” said Ms. Muhammad, who said she was now assigned 25 hours a week.

They were paying her for one day but they kept her tied up for five.

143 replies
  1. 1

    Besides keeping the reserve army of the unemployed and barely employed on a short leash, what is achieved by this Just-In-Time scheduling?
    ETA: How is this good for business? Having to make schedules every week is no fun for the supervisors either.

  2. 2
    aimai says:

    It is mind boggling the amount of abuse they were committing with one, simple, trick. Hourly wages and benefits weren’t half the story when you look at the time-labor-theft they were committing with this on demand crap.

  3. 3
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: It prevents them from having to figure out ahead of time how many employees they’ll need. It also means that they don’t have to put together a full week’s schedule, thus avoiding that no-fun task. And it saves on labor costs since you never have to worry about being overstaffed.

  4. 4
    c u n d gulag says:

    Unregulated, corporations will do whatever the fuck they want.

    And the fines for some even major transgressions are so damn low, they can be counted as part of the cost of doing business.

    Blow-up a small town in Texas, and kill a few people?
    No worries!
    Your CPA’s and lawyers will find ways to make that part of the cost of doing business.

    You can always ask the state legislature to give you additional tax-breaks to not move your business to pay for the fines after you destroyed the town, and killed people.
    In Texas, and other Red States, you’ll likely get them!

    Slow tumbrels and dull guillotines are the answer if Congress doesn’t start doing something. – extend the death agonies of the wealthy.
    Also too – drawing and quartering with old horses or slow cars.

  5. 5
    Kay says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I think it might actually feed on itself, create the kind of chaos that then requires more JIT scheduling.

    If they kept the one retail worker on the hook four mornings to allow for call-ins or no-shows, maybe they’d have fewer call-ins or no-shows if they gave people a predictable 25 hours?

    My son worked at Wendys for a while and he used to get a text when they needed him to come in. It’s like he’s the CEO or something, waiting for a call and he jumps in his car, “all part of the job”. They’re not paying them enough to demand this kind of 24/7 devotion.

  6. 6
    Ronnie Pudding says:

    Maybe they want to get a feel for store traffic? But that doesn’t fully make sense. Maybe they are anticipating some sick call-ins and just keep everyone on call in case someone has to cover.

    We have tech people on call where I work (they are paid for it). It’s in case our suppliers call in with tech issues.

  7. 7
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    There are jobs out there that really do demand this sort of on call system. I have an acquaintance that works as a conductor for Burlington Northern and he’s on call five days a week. It’s the only way the freight rail business works (and a conductor for freight is very different from a conductor for passenger service; he works out in the yard hooking trains together). On the other hand, he’s paid $90,000 a year to do the job, too and he’s happy with the trade off.

  8. 8
    askew says:

    It’s amazing how many different ways employers can shit all over workers when the economy is struggling.

    OT-Obama is talking about Ukraine and foreign policy at 5:15 today. I hope he is discussing the refugee crisis counts as foreign policy. I am pretty alarmed that the new WH spokesperson (who sucks) is saying that the WH is open to modifying the 2008 bill that allows these kids to get a trial and gain refugee status and would speed up kicking kids out of country. I’d like clarification on what that means. House and Senate Dems have been pushing back on revising this bill as is O’Malley. I hope the Dems do the right thing here.

  9. 9
    SatanicPanic says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I guess it’s easier to get people to fill in for employees that are out or have quit

  10. 10
    Trollhattan says:

    I agree this could…could become huge, as I don’t find many people who know how insidious and yet widespread these practices are. “Pledge your entire life to us and we’ll sprinkle you with work hours. Sometimes.”

  11. 11
    Corner Stone says:

    @askew:

    House and Senate Dems have been pushing back on revising this bill as is O’Malley.

    O’Malley has been getting severely criticized for going against the party line set by the Obama WH:
    O’Malley , Obama administration spar over immigration policies
    Does this mean your fair haired boy is “shitting” all over President Obama now?

  12. 12
    Kay says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    I know that’s true of railroad workers, and that’s exactly it: you have to pay people for that. You can’t make claims on their time without any compensation.

  13. 13
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    One of our clients who is a waitress called this week and said an audit of the restaurant where she works has discovered that the management was shorting any tips that were put on a credit card. Instead of just deducting the percentage that they are charged by the bank, they were just rounding in their favor. It only amounted to $3 to $5 per day on average, but that mounts up, her employers were ripping her off to the tune of $25.00 a week. She has been working there nearly ten years. You do the math. It never ceases to amaze me how employers are willing to screw over their employees.

  14. 14
    Corner Stone says:

    @Kay: When I was young I worked for a freight company as a “casual”. Talk about life disrupting, especially while trying to take 3 or 6 hours at a community college.
    That was mumble mumble years ago. It’s the same shit now, only employers have widened it and perfected how precisely they fuck their people over.
    I at least, at the time, earned a decent wage due to the full time union employees there.

  15. 15
    PIGL says:

    @c u n d gulag: The people should rise up and slaughter their oppressors.

  16. 16
    MattR says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): Is he salaried at 90K or is that just what it works out to by averaging all the different weekly paychecks he earns? Is he guaranteed any weekly minimum regardless of how much he works?

  17. 17
    Trollhattan says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:
    Best as I can figure, it’s the product of of our chronic, long-term underemployment paired with a corporate willingness to endure a pretty high employee turnover metric (thou shalt not exceed n-percent, lest thou miss thy bonus).

    Love or hate Howard Schultz, he’s basically flipping off Wall Street with programs like free university education for all employees.

  18. 18
    Corner Stone says:

    @Kay: My dad was a switchman for the RR for his entire working career, absent a couple years drafted into the army. Before he retired he was the union rep, defending people the company was trying to harm or fire.
    I was never so happy as when his sugar daddy union boss lost an election and he stopped doing that union rep job. Added 10 years to his life to get rid of that stress.

  19. 19
    raven says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: I didn’t realize it but my buddy who owns a restaurant told me I should tip in cash whether I paid with a card or not. I think this is pretty widespread.

  20. 20
    Corner Stone says:

    @MattR: No, he’s salaried at $60K and earns overtime and shift diff.
    If there’s an RR job paying $90K I want to see it.

  21. 21
    MoeLarryAndJesus says:

    The RWNJ response to employee problems like this is always the same: “If they don’t like it, find another job.”

    Which is why every RWNJ, everywhere, deserves to be punched in the face at least once a day.

    And twice on their birthdays.

  22. 22
    Kay says:

    @Corner Stone:

    We had “casuals” at the postal service but I was a good boss so they had regular hours. I don’t think it’s that difficult to schedule people. Are they really like “I have NO IDEA what will happen in this retail store Wednesday! None!” Couldn’t they just look at same period last year?

    We had to tell my son when he worked at Wendys, “you know, you don’t own that Wendys. You don’t really have to jump in the car if there is one fewer fry cook for the shift”.

    He’s much savvier now about the World O Work.

  23. 23
    Corner Stone says:

    @raven: I tip in cash for things like food delivery, but never in a restaurant. I just simply never carry cash at all anymore.

  24. 24
    Mnemosyne says:

    I’m wondering if this ties in with the story below of the mother who was arrested for letting her daughter play in a nearby park while she was working at McDonald’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if McDonald’s was keeping one of these “just in time” schedules that meant she had to bring her daughter with her or refuse the shift (and that week’s paycheck).

  25. 25

    @Kay: I am sure there is scheduling software that can take care of it.

  26. 26
    raven says:

    @Corner Stone: I did too but after I was told how easy it was to rip waitstaff I decided to change. It’s not like we do all kinds of high dollar dining anyway.

  27. 27
    Corner Stone says:

    @Kay: We had grown men with families who would not leave their house for an entire winter to go to the store or movies, etc because they were scared to death they would miss a call and not get that one shift.
    You could live off the wage, at the time, but it was torture for those guys.

  28. 28
    Trollhattan says:

    @Corner Stone:
    I happen to have Marshall McLuhan right here…uh, a friend who’s a railroad environmental programs manager and is very well compensated, like six-figures well. However, that’s the going rate for environmental engineers, so they basically have to pay the freight (heh). Dunno about the guys who work at the yard, by reputation the company is pretty rough on their folks.

  29. 29
    askew says:

    @Corner Stone:

    I get that you have some sort of psychotic need to pick a fight with me, but I am more interested in talking about these kids and what we are going to do about it. But, to answer your question, no O’Malley didn’t shit on Obama because he didn’t attack him personally but talked about the crisis and what we should be doing to address the problem. If other candidates want to separate themselves from Obama, here’s the model to follow. Disagree with him on an issue, don’t attack personally and don’t use GOP attacks as your own.

    Also, O’Malley already had some success with the WH agreeing with O’Malley that kids who are in danger of certain death should not be sent back to their home countries. What remains to be seen is if WH will allow 2008 rules to be relaxed and have kids returned before we find out if they are given a chance to argue they deserve asylum.

    Now, some unnamed Democrat disagrees with me because they tried to smear O’Malley as being a hypocrite for not wanting kids to go to a certain location in Maryland because it was too dangerous. O’Malley, Dems and Latino advocacy groups have successfully pushed back on the smear. When reporters tried to pull O’Malley into a petty fight with the WH, he responded perfectly with “talk to them, I am concerned about the kids.”

  30. 30
    raven says:

    @Kay: God, when I started on the dock at the PO they could work us 12 hr shifts, 7 days straight and then get a day off. I had so much money and nowhere to spend it! The bars opened at 6am so we’d get off work, get hammered and get up and do it again. Never so happy to get fired from a gig that I was that one.

  31. 31
    scav says:

    Isn’t the abuse of this just the next round of using temps/adjuncts/contractors to cut benefits, Zero-hour contracts, etc. etc.? A) they don’t have to plan anymore for average to peak periods, they go low and then just hire/call and expect everyone to jump to B) They slice away the parts of employee compensation that used to be expected but not included explicitly in wages away (Pension? Vacation time? Sick Leave? Health Insurance? All those things sub-contractors suddenly found tossed in their laps? As much of the risks, uncertainty, inconvenience, etc. are being funneled down to the smallest players. See also stuff on zero-hour contracts in the UK from what I’ve seen fly-by at the Guardian. Also, as with many business trends, I’d wonder if many aren’t doing this because it is the latest trend but not actually the best fit for their actual business. See outsourcing, which was oversold as a cure-all, but also plays a part in this general trend.

  32. 32
    Kay says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Our county chair is a retired railroad person. He is literally one of the nicest people I have ever met. He adores his grandchildren. I borrowed his (immaculate) SUV once and the single CD was “Silly Songs for the Very Young”. My teenagers bought a used car from him (they shared the car) and he used to come over and check the car to see if they were changing the oil, had the tires properly inflated, etc. It was like it came with a service contract.

  33. 33
    Corner Stone says:

    @Trollhattan: Is he union or is he company (management) ?

  34. 34
    Kay says:

    @raven:

    I know you hated it but this was a rural office in the middle of nowhere so we were 100% in charge. I once had this long conversation with Chicago postal workers and they were all disgruntled, too. It’s a really good job in rural low income places, even the “casuals”.

  35. 35
    Trollhattan says:

    @Corner Stone:
    Have never asked, but probably not union. Definitely on call for incidents 24/7/365, which could become interesting given the plans to start hauling Bakken crude trains through our area. Lots of them.

  36. 36
    Corner Stone says:

    @askew: Ha ha ha. You’re so transparent I can read that billboard behind you.
    Tell anyone where another potential candidate beside Gov Schweizer has said something personally off key about Obama.
    You can’t. You can bring up fevered dreams of bullshit and repeat ad nauseum but you can’t hang anything on anyone, even though you never fail to fail. I mean “try”.
    It’s not that I have a need to pick a fight with you, percy, it’s just that you’re such a lying and disingenuous POS.

  37. 37
    MattR says:

    There are definitely professions where this is necessary (railroad has been mentioned as one example, hospital staffing is another that comes to mind). It was OK when companies were limiting this to “when necessary” and were properly compensating people for their trouble. The problem is that companies have moved to doing this “when convenient” while not paying the workers who were inconvenienced. But that is emblematic of the free reign that “capitalism” has been given in this country over the past 30 years (and which has been accelerating in the last decade)

    @Corner Stone: I am guessing that even though the base salary may be $60K, pretty much everybody actually earns more because they all are getting some kind of extra compensation for the weird hours/shifts that they work. (Or alternatively if they are grossing only 60K, they are working consistent 40 hour weeks without being on call for off-hours shifts)

    @schrodinger’s cat: The reason I mentioned hospitals above is because a friend of mine works for a company that does shift management for nurses, vendors, etc (from time and attendence to allowing a pool of on-call nurses to be notified if a new shift opens up and allows them to claim the shift if they want it). I doubt the new legislation/regulations being pushed would affect his clientele too much (from previous conversations it sounds more like his clients use it to conveniently offer OT shifts to the regular nurses, not making them wait to see if they are going to be lucky and get a shift or two this week), but I am definitely going to ask him about it.

  38. 38
    eldorado says:

    @raven: in my state (nationally maybe) not all that long ago, rules were changed so that credit card tips were reported as earnings. cash tips are usually just estimates, and they are frequently under-reported so the waitstaff pockets the difference. this doesn’t bother me excessively, but you may feel differently.

  39. 39
    Corner Stone says:

    @Trollhattan: Ok, I should have been more clear in my commentary and speculation. I meant working people, which to my history with an RR means union.
    Management’s a different kettle of fish.

  40. 40
    aimai says:

    @askew: The real lesson here is not to believe everything you hear ginned up as disrespect to the President or as “shitting on the president” even when right wing assholes project that crap onto a Democrat you already dislike.

  41. 41
    WaterGirl says:

    Kay, do you think we could have a thread for the president speaking from the white house briefing room? He is supposed to start any minute. thanks

    Edit: president just started speaking at 5:44

  42. 42
    Trollhattan says:

    @scav:
    No doubt–“hey, you’re now a contractor, doesn’t that sound great?” Making everybody who can fog a mirror a “manager” to avoid paying overtime is another very popular trick. And yeah, outsourcing. A friend’s employer has outsourced more than a third of their positions to Poland and India, the latter being where they had to basically replicated the infrastructure to deal with week-longer power outages, etc. Hard to do tech support with no electricity and water.

  43. 43
    Roger Moore says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Besides keeping the reserve army of the unemployed and barely employed on a short leash, what is achieved by this Just-In-Time scheduling?

    Isn’t keeping the people at the bottom of the economy down enough justification? I assume the stated justification is the need for flexibility to deal with unpredictable need for employees and unpredictable employees. IOW, the employers want some flexibility, but they put the cost on the back of their employees.

    It’s also a vicious circle. Employees can’t get enough hours to make ends meet, so they have to take multiple shitty jobs. When multiple employers call for the employee at the same time, they have to pick one job to go to, making them look unreliable to the ones they can’t go to. That perceived unreliability makes the employers keep more part-time employees on call so they can be sure to have somebody when they need them.

  44. 44
    WaterGirl says:

    @Corner Stone: Can we not have this fight when there’s not an alternate thread to bail to?

    Pretty please?

  45. 45

    The only people I know of who are on call are both physicians. One is a neonatologist and the other is a radiologist. I am sure they are being paid when on call.

    ETA: A doctor being on call makes sense not a fast food or a retail worker.

  46. 46
    feebog says:

    @Kay:

    We had “casuals” at the postal service but I was a good boss so they had regular hours. I don’t think it’s that difficult to schedule people. Are they really like “I have NO IDEA what will happen in this retail store Wednesday! None!” Couldn’t they just look at same period last year?

    Same here. I used to schedule over 100 employees each week. The regulars all had schedules, but I had to fill in the blanks with Flexibles and Casuals. It just was not that hard. I was amazed when my DiL went to work for a retail clothing store, they jerked her around every week. Sucked big time.

  47. 47
    kc says:

    It’s not just people with children, either, and they don’t need to be attending classes or doing something considered productive and industrious to ask for predictability and order. Maybe they just want to have certain planned blocks of time where the demands of their low wage employer are not put above their own needs or desires.

    Or sadly maybe they need to be able to schedule for a second shitty job because their first shitty job doesn’t pay the bills.

  48. 48
    Corner Stone says:

    @MattR:

    pretty much everybody actually earns more because they all are getting some kind of extra compensation for the weird hours/shifts that they work.

    They largely stopped this about a decade ago. Now they fight to get the extra shift diff for odd shifts and only senior people get to turn down OT.

  49. 49
    MomSense says:

    It seems like far too many companies see human beings and their labor as a resource to be exploited. Things could be so different but this greed and self interest first culture is simultaneously so seductive (to some!) and so destructive. For years the President has been talking about the importance of empathy and that the empathy deficit is our biggest challenge. He’s right.

  50. 50
    Roger Moore says:

    @Trollhattan:

    “Pledge your entire life to us and we’ll sprinkle you with work hours. Sometimes.”

    Especially if you do favors for the manager in charge of scheduling- not that this is a new thing with flexible schedules.

  51. 51
    Corner Stone says:

    @WaterGirl: Sure. Anything for you.

  52. 52
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @feebog:

    It just was not that hard.

    If you are at all. If you don’t give a shit, then you don’t bother.

  53. 53
    askew says:

    Deleted to honor WaterGirl’s request and it’s not worth it.

  54. 54
    gene108 says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    It prevents them from having to figure out ahead of time how many employees they’ll need. It also means that they don’t have to put together a full week’s schedule, thus avoiding that no-fun task. And it saves on labor costs since you never have to worry about being overstaffed.

    The other advantage is you can quickly ramp up or down the number of people working, depending on the volume of customers at the store.

    No more needing to guess, if Wednesday afternoon will be a busy time at The GAP* in the mall. If it is not busy, send some folks home. If it gets busy later in the day, call some people up.

    Just a really crazy way to manage labor costs by retail.

    * I’m not sure, if the GAP does this or not or to what extent. Just used the name to illustrate a point.

  55. 55
    kc says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    I hope they sue the shit out of the bosses.

  56. 56
    WaterGirl says:

    @MomSense:

    It seems like far too many companies see human beings and their labor as a resource to be exploited.

    It seems like far too many companies see human beings not as human beings.

  57. 57

    Has anyone done a cost benefit analysis, the money saved by JIT scheduling and cost of consumer dissatisfaction and employee turnover.

  58. 58
    WaterGirl says:

    @Corner Stone: @askew:
    Big thanks to both of you!

  59. 59
    Corner Stone says:

    When my dad retired from the RR over 10 years ago, he had never made more than $80K a year. And that was with 30 years seniority, union rep pay, and some pay bennies for taking on challenging roles.
    I graduated with a guy who, at 22 made $60K a year as an RR engineer, but only with shift diff and balls out OT. The kind that left people not so clear when they went to work.
    If a union RR yard worker is making $90K a year without clocking every possible OT hour, I would appreciate hearing about it.

  60. 60
    WaterGirl says:

    Wow, that was fast! President Obama was in and out in 7 minutes, taking no questions.

    It was discouraging to listen to the president speak in support of Israel. And if he said anything about the refugee crisis, I missed it.

    I’m not exactly sure what the point was, maybe to point out how many foreign policy balls are up in the air at the moment? Curious to see what anyone else who watched has to say.

    Hell, it’s a slow day, you could always make something up even if you didn’t watch or listen. Or, as we like to call it, a day that ends in a “Y”.

  61. 61
    feebog says:

    @Kay:

    I once had this long conversation with Chicago postal workers and they were all disgruntled, too.

    You would be disgruntled if you had to work in the shithole that was the Chicago Main Mail Processing facility. Nine stories of filth, heat, and some the most dangerous working conditions you could imagine. We took a tour of the place when I was promoted into management in 1980. There were holes in the hardwood floors that you could literally fall into. Can’t imagine what their accident rate was.

  62. 62
    Manyakitty says:

    FWIW, a friend is full time at Sterling (with benefits, etc.) and they refuse to give him a steady schedule. Some weeks he’s on all days, others odd hours like 1-11pm, 4pm-3am–pretty much number soup and different days all the time. He is not allowed to plan for a shift off in advance-they want him to call in sick or something. It’s wreaking havoc with their childcare plans and making his wife miserable. Further, he keeps applying for other jobs at the company, in his department and in others, but is always told he almost got it, but not quite. The poor guy feels utterly stuck. Seems like yet another trap.

  63. 63
    MattR says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    The only people I know of who are on call are both physicians.

    I work in IT for a warehousing company and am the only one who knows how to support a particular subsystem still used in a handful of warehouses that run 24-7 so I am on call 24-7. But I am well compensated and have other flexible hour perks that make up for it. (EDIT: And I rarely get bothered off hours anymore now that it is a handful of whses using this system and not 20)

  64. 64
    Corner Stone says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Has anyone done a cost benefit analysis, the money saved by JIT scheduling and cost of consumer dissatisfaction and employee turnover.

    Welcome to the modern economy.
    If companies gave one shit about actual customer satisfaction, how many call centers do you think would be offshored?
    And as for onramping new employees in low or middle low wage jobs, shoot. Thanks to our overlords there are so many over-skilled people looking for work the companies can get them in the door without having to pay more than orientation costs.
    They don’t pay for training.

  65. 65
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    @raven:

    That is why I always try to tip in cash if I have it. Hell if I pay my bill with a card upfront (at a buffet place usually) I will ask for cash back for the tip so I can make sure that my waitress actually gets the tip and isn’t stiffed by her employer.

  66. 66
    askew says:

    @WaterGirl:

    Thought that update by Obama was completely pointless and it’s frustrating to see him ignore the huge crisis happening here due to issues in Central America. That should be his focus now. It sounds like they are talking about a compromise but there sure doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency.

  67. 67
    Corner Stone says:

    @WaterGirl: I blinked and I missed it.

  68. 68
    D58826 says:

    It’s a feature not a bug in the attempt by corporate America to reduce the 99% to serfs. And if you get desperate about child care there is always the corrupt CPS to arrest you and take your kid away. This generates more business for the private prison industry

  69. 69

    @MattR: The on-call doctors have to be available on phone and only show up at the hospital if there is an emergency the nurses or the residents can’t handle.

  70. 70
    Iowa Old Lady says:

    I seem to recall a commenter saying his daughter worked at a retail store, and when it wasn’t busy, they told her to clock out and wait in her car in the parking lot to see if they’d get busy again.

  71. 71
    MomSense says:

    @WaterGirl:

    It seems like far too many companies see human beings not as human beings.

    Sadly, I think you’re right.

  72. 72
    Keith G says:

    @Corner Stone: It’s a good idea to always tip in cash then it’s up to the person you have tipped how much info about her tipped income is shared with the boss and the IRS.

    Also if you want to reward for great counter service (at your fav artisnal coffee shop / bakery), first ask if the tips are pooled. If the answer is yes (usually they are), tell your server that you will only leave a tip if you can watch it go into his pocket where it will stay. Pooled tips are an amazing source of temptation for owners and managers.

    I worked as a cashier at a big box store one summer not long ago. My weekly hours varied from 28 to 35. Only two shifts were ever consistent in day, time, and hours. I never had two days off in a row.

    Midway through my time there, a new scheduling program used historical data to layout a “blue print” for the next schedule (posted on Wed for a work week starting the next Monday). After that point, shift times might begin and end on the quarter hours. Therefore, instead of working 7 or 6 1/2 hours on Tuesday, one might be scheduled for 6 1/4. My Sunday shift began to be scheduled from 9:30 til 3:15. And one might well be sent home 30 min early the if productivity program tells the manager on duty that the pace has slowed and someone needs to leave.

    It was a temp fill in job for me and yet it was amazingly brutal on the spirits.

  73. 73
    Keith G says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Has anyone done a cost benefit analysis, the money saved by JIT scheduling and cost of consumer dissatisfaction and employee turnover.

    Those types of consequences only show up several quarters (if not several years) down the road. Return on investment is calculated every quarter. It is here and now.

  74. 74
    shelley says:

    The working poor have the right to have plans? Shocking.

  75. 75
    Calouste says:

    @WaterGirl:

    It seems like far too many companies managers see other human beings not as human beings.

    Companies, whatever the fascist wing of the Supreme Court thinks, are not sentient. It’s humans within those companies that set and execute the policies that treat other humans as less human.

  76. 76
    Corner Stone says:

    @Keith G:

    Also if you want to reward for great counter service (at your fav artisnal coffee shop / bakery), first ask if the tips are pooled. If the answer is yes (usually they are), tell your server that you will only leave a tip if you can watch it go into his pocket where it will stay. Pooled tips are an amazing source of temptation for owners and managers.

    I’ve never known of a place that didn’t pool tips. How else do the busboys, dishwashers and line cooks get paid?

  77. 77
    beth says:

    @Iowa Old Lady: That was me I think. The grocery store she worked at would tell her to take her lunch break, but take it in her car in case they got busy and needed her back quickly. They would do this at 10:00am when she just got in at 9 and was scheduled till 5. She spent nearly two years as an on-call worker there before she got promoted to the customer service desk. She would only get one or two definite work dates a week scheduled and then she’d be on call two or three days. She was always on call on holidays if she wasn’t working. It really sucked her first year because her license didn’t allow her to drive at night so guess who else was on call with her? Mom was that’s who. She owes me big time for that. She still works there but she’s full time now with a fairly fixed schedule.

  78. 78
    Corner Stone says:

    @D58826:

    And if you get desperate about child care there is always the corrupt CPS to arrest you and take your kid away.

    I think you deeply misunderstand the CPS. Talk about a job I would not wish on my worst enemy.
    My sister was a case worker for over 10 years. I would have been dead or in jail after 2 weeks, and I am not a violent person.
    The strength, and mental toughness it takes to do one day of that job is probably more then most of us could understand.

  79. 79
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @Corner Stone:

    If a union RR yard worker is making $90K a year without clocking every possible OT hour, I would appreciate hearing about it.

    One of three things must be true:

    1) I’m lying to you;
    2) My friend is lying to me;
    3) You’ve heard about it.

  80. 80
    Raven says:

    @feebog: I was at the Champaign PO when it was an SCF. We were the facility for Columbia Record club returns. That shit be heavy.

  81. 81
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    @kc:

    I called the NC Labor and Hourly Wage Board and they told me that she had a boat load of options at this point, she could wait and see what the auditor recommended and either accept it or go to the Labor Board, the guy told me that if the Labor Board go in there and investigate they will make sure that she gets paid every penny she is owed.

  82. 82
    David in NY says:

    You can’t tell from the link but this was front page in the New York Times. That would have been unthinkable a little while ago.

    This whole movement is getting more traction, in which I take some personal pride, since the younger son has been a lead organizer in the Fast Food Forward movement ($15 an hour!) for two years, and the waves they’ve made seem to be having some effects — more municipal raises in the minimum wage, a promise (for what it’s worth) from Andrew Cuomo of a $13.30 minimum in NYC and other municipalities that opt for it, and so on. His group (NYCC) has done particularly good work with car washer guys (washeros), who sometimes work six days a week, but can be sent home on slow days or ordered in on Sunday, and suffer from this scheduling chaos. They’ve actually unionized some shops. But god, it’s hard, hard work.

  83. 83
    Corner Stone says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): I know chemical plant refinery operators who also make over $100K each year. But they work insane amounts of OT and “shutdowns/turnarounds”.
    Tell you what, I will apologize to you in full if there is some way you can make the case that a union worker for the RR makes $90K as a base salary.

  84. 84
    WaterGirl says:

    @Calouste: It’s a very versatile sentence!

    It seems like far too many companies republicans see human beings women not as human beings.

    Edit:

    It seems like far too many companies rapists see human beings women not as human beings.

  85. 85
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Corner Stone: Jesus let it go already

  86. 86
    Mike J says:

    @MattR:

    I work in IT for a warehousing company and am the only one who knows how to support a particular subsystem still used in a handful of warehouses that run 24-7 so I am on call 24-7

    And you don’t have to worry that they aren’t going to schedule you at all this week so you won’t be able to make your rent. I’m guessing you’re going to work at least 5 days a week, and with your flex time, take a morning off when they call you after midnight. This is not the case for most hourly workers who are on call.

  87. 87
    Corner Stone says:

    @SatanicPanic: Let what go?
    If I’m misinformed then I would appreciate knowing it.

  88. 88
    Mandalay says:

    @Keith G:

    tell your server that you will only leave a tip if you can watch it go into his pocket where it will stay

    WTF??? On a whim, you want to place rules on whether the employee gets to receive the tip they just earned?

    If you disapprove of pooled tips so much then inquire about the policy before you sit own, and leave if you don’t like it. But don’t wait until after you have eaten, then threaten to withhold a tip from a person who just gave you great service.

  89. 89
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Corner Stone: What his buddy’s salary is. who cares

  90. 90
    Corner Stone says:

    @Mandalay: He works in the food service industry, so I am sure he’s not out to damage hard working people.
    I’m just not sure what my remedy is. Because if that waitstaff sticks the cash in his/her pocket in a pooled environment then they have damaged themselves in that place.
    And he knows that. So what’s the suggested alternative?

  91. 91
    Corner Stone says:

    @SatanicPanic: I care. GFY if you don’t.
    Otherwise, GFY in any event.
    Fuck you.

  92. 92
    John N says:

    I’m 29 and man, what a nightmare the next 15 years are going to be.

  93. 93
    Corner Stone says:

    @John N: What happens at 44?

  94. 94
    MattR says:

    @Mike J: Oh absolutely. I recognize the distinction and am definitely not comparing or complaining. I know I wouldn’t make it four hours working one of our warehouses (maybe less since we only do refrigerated and frozen foods) I was just responding to shrodinger’s cat that it is more than just doctors who are on call at all times. (though it is a distinctly different type of being on call)

  95. 95
  96. 96
    Corner Stone says:

    @SatanicPanic: I’ve made like 3 comments out of 100 that were about that.
    Sorry to work you down into a rut.

  97. 97
    Mandalay says:

    @Corner Stone:

    So what’s the suggested alternative?

    The alternative to what – pooled tips? As a waiter, you work somewhere else if you don’t like it. As as customer you eat somewhere else if you don’t like it.

    But you don’t get to eat the food and enjoy the service, and then act like a power mad prick and tell the waiter there will be no tip unless they do something that could cause them to lose their job. I’m not in the catering business, but I suspect the term used for a customer behaving that way is “fucking asshole”.

  98. 98
    Mnemosyne says:

    @MattR:

    There are definitely professions where this is necessary (railroad has been mentioned as one example, hospital staffing is another that comes to mind).

    The difference with healthcare is that “on call” personnel are actually paid to be on call. If I remember the numbers right (from circa 2002-2004), nurses would get $10 or $12 to be “on call” and then be paid their regular hourly rate if they did get called. But they received an hourly wage for being on call. Same with the company my husband works for now — the guys who are “on call” are being paid one hourly rate to be on call and then get their normal (higher) hourly rate if they get called in.

    That’s the problem with these fast food and other jobs — people are being told they have to be on call with no compensation. They’re just supposed to wait by the phone for free.

  99. 99
    Kay says:

    @David in NY:

    You can’t tell from the link but this was front page in the New York Times. That would have been unthinkable a little while ago.
    This whole movement is getting more traction, in which I take some personal pride, since the younger son has been a lead organizer in the Fast Food Forward movement ($15 an hour!) for two years, and the waves they’ve made seem to be having some effects

    I think so too, and good job by your son!

    I have been hearing about the irregular hours problem for years. We are constantly lecturing young parents in the juvenile court system that their kids need constancy and order and mealtimes and all that, yet their parents lives are freaking chaos. It’s impossible. No one could do it. There have always been low wage workers, but at least they had some semblance of a normal life. People can’t live like this, and be poor TOO.

  100. 100
    feebog says:

    @Raven:

    I will never forget my first Christmas with the San Fernando Post Office. This was in 1964, well before mail processing facilities were centralized. I had been working a few months and my boss knew I had a pickup (a 1963 Ford Ranchero) so he asked me if I wanted to deliver packages. Hey, all the hours I could work and mileage, what’s not to like, right? I walked into the facility and beheld, literally, a mountain of canvass sacks full of packages. To make matters worse, as the sacks were filled, they were simply pulled and flung into the canvass sack mountain by the Mail Handlers. It was up to the delivery guys to wade through the mess and try to find 10 to 12 sacks that were more or less in the same delivery area. Good times, and yes, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, at least during the month of December.

  101. 101
    Corner Stone says:

    @Mnemosyne: My ex is an RN, and she never got a penny for being “on call”.
    She had to stay sober, able and available for all those shifts and if no one called on her, she got nothing.

  102. 102
    Corner Stone says:

    @Mandalay: I think I am misunderstanding Keith G, so I’ll wait to see if he has additional info or suggestions.
    I’m familiar with your absolute certainty when it comes to interpreting comments so I am comfortable waiting, at this point.

  103. 103
    MattR says:

    @Mnemosyne: Again, I agree completely. We (as a country) used to do this for jobs where it is necessary, like in the medical industry but the workers are compensated for their trouble (either explicitly with extra money like you mentioned or with an above average base salary that takes into account being on call or some combination of the two). Now we do it for the convenience (which really means profit) of the corporation and without regard (or compensation) for the workers.

  104. 104
    The Golux says:

    My wife works at the local Sur La Table, hardly a low-rent outfit, and they treat their employees like an expense. They hire more people than they need, so that everyone gets paltry hours. It’s not uncommon for peope to get four hours a week during the holiday season, and they put unreasonable pressure on to meet sales goals, even if you’re only working from 10am to 2pm on a Tuesday, when there are no customers in the store.

    The thing that really drives my wife up a wall is when they schedule her for two four-hour shifts when one eight-hour shift would work just as well, so she has to drive to work (and dress for work) twice.

  105. 105
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Sorry, $10 or $12 per hour to be on call, not, like $10 for an 8-hour on-call shift.

  106. 106
    WaterGirl says:

    @The Golux: I am reminded of the old bumper sticker a friend of mine had printed up, decades ago:

    We don’t care; we don’t have to.

    My friend jumped the fence one night and put the bumper sticker on all the Bell telephone vehicles. It was very gratifying. Possibly against the law, but gratifying nonetheless.

  107. 107
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Corner Stone: Keith G’s original comment referred only to tipping for counter service at a coffee shop, bakery, or the like. These are likely the places where there is a tip jar next to the register. that may create a special circumstance. I’ve never worked in that environment, so I don’t know.

  108. 108
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name):

    Keith G’s original comment referred only to tipping for counter service at a coffee shop, bakery, or the like.

    I agree, but in that comment he mentioned a tip pooling environment. So, like a bar, any tip that goes in the jar is pooled. And in a pooled environment, any tip to one person gets tipped out to the entire crew.
    My question remains in that, if tips aren’t pooled, how are busboys, line cooks, etc all handled when it comes to service tips?
    Because that counter staff, or bartender, or waitstaff aren’t earning your good wishes all by themselves. And I’m not going back of the house to tip the Guatemalan line cook to thank him for the excellent fish and chips.
    So, not to piss SatanicPanic off any further or anything, but I’m just asking someone who deals with this for a living.

  109. 109
    Keith G says:

    @Corner Stone: The last place I worked in that biz was Houston’s South Beach. They used a modified pool in that, barbacks etc were tipped a % of sales that was taken out of the bartenders charged tips. That was a base and bartenders usually added to that out their cash tips. Everyone one was happy as that place was a destination club with a line out the door. We made bank.

    Above, I was speaking of “counter” places like a coffee shop with a central tip jar.

  110. 110
    Keith G says:

    @Corner Stone: Did my comment at 109 clear that up?

  111. 111
    Corner Stone says:

    @Keith G: No. Go to hell.
    I’m still ticked off from the “no invite to oysters” event.

  112. 112
    Keith G says:

    @Corner Stone: The Houston oysters?

    Man, they left town a long time ago.

  113. 113
    Roger Moore says:

    @Keith G:

    Pooled tips are an amazing source of temptation for owners and managers.

    There was a big lawsuit involving Starbucks’ handling of shared tips here in California. California law says that supervisors and managers aren’t allowed to take a share of tips, but the shift managers were getting the same share of tips the other employees were. Starbucks claimed that the shift managers should have been given a share because they were also serving customers, the same as other employees. My gut feeling is that this was really about Starbucks misclassifying senior baristas as supervisors to dodge labor rules. Either they’re really supervisors, in which case they don’t get a share of tips, or they aren’t, in which case they shouldn’t be treated that way.

  114. 114
    gelfling545 says:

    @WaterGirl: This will be the next step on the arc our national debacle. Human beings are not persons, only corporations are persons.

  115. 115
    Mandalay says:

    @Corner Stone: If a waiter pockets a tip where the tips are pooled then they are stealing from their co-workers, and deserve to be fired. And a customer who refuses to tip unless the waiter pockets the tip in that situation is an asshole, regardless of whether it’s a bar or a coffee shop or a five star restaurant.

  116. 116
    Keith G says:

    @Corner Stone: Speaking of the Gulf’s tasty bounty, what the hell has happened to the price of Gulf shrimp? Last year or so, I could find a deal every once in a while.

    Are there any places down around you where one can buy shrimp without taking out a loan?

  117. 117
    Mnemosyne says:

    @MattR:

    Now that I’m looking, this may partly be a California thing (pdf here). We still have very strong labor laws here (any work over 8 hours in a day gets overtime pay even if you work less than 40 hours in the week, unless you have a specific kind of shift) and there are rules about when you have to pay an employee to be on call.

  118. 118
    WereBear says:

    @kc: Or sadly maybe they need to be able to schedule for a second shitty job because their first shitty job doesn’t pay the bills.

    That was the boat WalMart put my mother in. It makes it hard to hang onto either job.

  119. 119
    Keith G says:

    @Mandalay: Your objection is noted.

  120. 120
    Kay says:

    @feebog:

    The rural carriers were the most difficult to work with. They’re like the libertarians of the Postal Service, except they had their own union :)

    I would have to check their automobiles for safety, so all the lights have to work, brakes, they can’t have bald tires, etc. They would stand there and just get madder and madder. Once a month. Every month. Always just as outraged as the month prior.

  121. 121
    WereBear says:

    @Iowa Old Lady: Crap like that is why I buy clothes either online or the local consignment shop.

  122. 122
    Roger Moore says:

    @David in NY:

    You can’t tell from the link but this was front page in the New York Times. That would have been unthinkable a little while ago.

    The Overton Window is shifting, and it’s moving to the left!

  123. 123
    WaterGirl says:

    @gelfling545: You may be correct on that. So discouraging.

  124. 124
    efgoldman says:

    They were paying her for one day but they kept her tied up for five.

    Of course the makers an thievers and exploiters will sell this bullshit as a variation on the old union hall shape-up, in which Teamsters, say, or Laborers not currently working regularly or on a specific project, would show (“shape up”) at the union HQ every morning and wait for jobs to be posted. Apparently Longshoremen are doing it again/still.
    Of course that system had its own problems: Union business agents would give their favorite guys (or the guys who paid them off) all the work.

  125. 125
    WaterGirl says:

    After months of my eating out at least half the time during my house repairs, I wanted to leave a special tip to a waitress who had always been particularly kind. I asked if they shared tips; she said yes and asked why I was asking. I explained that I wanted to leave her a special tip as a thank you for all her kindness, but that didn’t really make sense if it was shared.

    She said that since I had specified that I wanted her to have the whole tip, she was able to keep the whole tip, and she put the extra bill in her pocket.

  126. 126
    WereBear says:

    @WaterGirl: How sweet of you!

    We routinely overtip our favorite waitress at our favorite place.

  127. 127
    Greg says:

    All railway and airline employees work under the Railway Labor Act of 1926. It has its own distinct labor laws, so comparing those employees to standard employees is pointless. (former airline employee here). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_Labor_Act

  128. 128
    tommydee says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Really. Under my union contract, as I recall, I got half time pay for being on call. Just saying.

  129. 129
    mclaren says:

    Unfortunately the “solution” to this problem offered by the corporations is likely to be legalizing indentured servitude, AKA slavery. I have a running bet that the Supreme Court will legalize slavery within 10 years.

    Once people become indentured serfs, their schedules will be completely predictable.

  130. 130
    Original Lee says:

    Just as bad as this JIT scheduling is the “as needed” scheduling. A neighbor got a job at big box store that is 25 hours a week. He works an hour before the store opens plus the first 1.5 hours the store is open, returns an hour before the store closes, and works that hour plus 1.5 hours. Five days a week, but not the same five days every week. He finds out Saturday night what his work schedule is for the coming week.

    Or you can have my work schedule, which is a weekly swing shift. I work two days regular, two days evenings. The “evenings” start any time between noon and 3 PM, because if you start your shift at 4 PM or after, they have to pay you the night differential. Otherwise a good job and the schedule is predictable, but it still is problematic. I am reminded of a section in the a parenting book, “Solving Your Child’s Sleep Problems” where the author says, essentially, that just because it’s predictable doesn’t mean it’s not disruptive. You can practice your tuba every day at 3 PM if you like, but don’t expect your baby to sleep through it.

  131. 131
    Kay says:

    @mclaren:

    The new scary thing is people don’t know who employs them. They tell me “I work for Kumi” ( a supplier here in manufacturing) and I look at their pay stub and tell them “no, you don’t”. They work for an employment service to a contractor of the company. I think “employee”, the legal definition, will be a luxury that only few will achieve. It’s vaguely terrifying to me, the level of deliberate and careful distance and complete disconnect between “worker” and “employer”.

  132. 132
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @Corner Stone: He doesn’t work insane overtime; I know that both because of the schedule I see him on and what he says. He tells me he makes more than 90k a year.

    That’s the extent of what I can demonstrate.

  133. 133
    Corner Stone says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): I’ve been told I should not care.
    Bygones!

  134. 134
    David in NY says:

    @Kay: Kay, there is a big legal fight going on about this in the fast food industry, where, say, McDonald’s claims it doesn’t have most of the employees, they’re employees of its franchisees. (Notwithstanding that McD’s CEO referred to all of them as McD’s employees, and explained how well-treated they were, the other day). Anyway, there are lawsuits pending in about seven states (including, I think, IL and NY) that rest on the claim that, because of the control McD’s exercises over the employment practices of the franchisees, their employees are, de facto, also McD’s. Winning these cases would be a BFD. I don’t know the details exactly, but I think there may have been some press on the cases.

  135. 135
    David in NY says:

    By the way, I’m sure that SEIU would be very happy to represent all the folks getting screwed by these policies.

  136. 136
    Groucho48 says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Did she work at a union place?

  137. 137
    Corner Stone says:

    @Groucho48: They aren’t allowed to have a union.

  138. 138
    JoyfulA says:

    @Corner Stone: My sister worked for a child abuse hotline. She started taking an annual vacation at Disneyland to see happy-looking children.

  139. 139
    Corner Stone says:

    @JoyfulA: My sister is the most hard nosed, grudge holding, deeply compassionate and loving, never give in person you will never meet.
    For almost 20 years she walked into falling down apartment complexes and pulled kids out of the worst rat holed drug ass infested places God himself forgot about.
    She also went to schools in “wealthy” suburbia where the principal told her, “How can that be? We don’t have that sort of thing here!”
    “Yeah. That’s why I’m out here twice a week.”
    My sister is the hardest bitch that ever walked since my maternal grandmother passed on.

  140. 140
    sparrow says:

    @Corner Stone: At my place it was more or less an honor system, I counted my tips and gave 15% directly to the busboy that helped my section. Manager never saw it.

  141. 141
    Gretchen says:

    I work night shift at a private laboratory. They think it’s fine to call the people who work overnight at 4pm (in the middle of their sleeping time) and tell them to come in 2 hours early, or an hour later. Can you imagine calling the day shift at 3am and telling them to come in at 7 instead of 8, or 9? But they think it’s perfectly ok. You sleep during the day day because you’re up all night working for us? Really? How strange! On the 4th of July, night shift all slept during the day rather than going to barbeques or fireworks, because they were going to have to be up all night. Then, when the first night-shifters arrived that night, they found that there were no shipments that night, so no work to do. They called everyone who was ready to come in to work and told them to wait until 7am because that was when the work would arrive. Somebody knew well ahead of time that there were no shipments that night, but it didn’t occur to them not to spoil the holidays of the 50 people who were prepared to come in the night of the 4th and then put off. That person had her 3 day weekend, and had no problem spoiling the holiday of all the others who depended on the shipment for work. I hate my job.
    I’m thinking how big of an emergency it would have to be to call one of the big guys in the middle of the night. The place would have to be burning down. But call $8 an hour night shift employees to change their shift at the last minute while they’re trying to sleep? One hour weather delays in the shipment is good enough. 24-7 access should be what the highest paid executives get for their high pay, not what every low-paid line employee has to give to keep a lousy job.

  142. 142
    Older says:

    I’ve been reading the “sharing tips” discussion with interest. A whole bunch of my large number of kids went into food service as a career, and a few stuck with it. So I often ask the server if they “tip out” because I want to be sure that even the staff I don’t see will get part of the tip I leave for good service. And I’m a good tipper. (Used to always be an ordeal when eating out with my mother. She’d routinely snag a couple of the dollars I left on the table and I would have to double back and replace them. Arguing the case got me nowhere, of course.)

  143. 143

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