Low-wage workers are often forced to go to work with little notice, maintain open availability for “on-call” shifts without any guarantee of work and have shifts canceled at the last minute, which leads to lost wages.
In Connecticut, women make up 67% of the low-wage workforce according to the National Women Law Center (2018) . Unfair scheduling practices especially impact women of color, who are over-represented in the low-wage workforce and among single mothers who work to support their families.
I am one of the women in these data reports. Nine years ago, I worked part-time at a retail store while I was also homeless. During this time, I felt anxious with a tight pain in my chest and stressed living with the uncertainty of whether I would have enough money for the week to pay bills and survive. Unpredictable schedules and canceled shifts left me feeling hopeless and unable to plan ahead for public transportation, to seek other jobs, to take college classes or to meet financial goals to get myself out of debt. I felt like a commodity at the hands of an employer who did not see or care about me as a person not only struggling to survive, but trying hard to reach economic stability.
In 2015, as a single mother to my 1-year-old daughter, Cecelia, my unpredictable schedule only made my life harder because my daughter also counted on these lost wages from cancelled shifts just as much I did to survive. I was also often forced to make last minute childcare arrangements with my mom, who was thankfully there for me, but the uncertainty and inability to plan ahead put stress on the both of us to make accommodations and have stability.
With income and work schedules that fluctuate, workers often have no choice but to cobble together child care at the last minute. Data from National Women’s Law Center (2017) reports, since child care centers require caregivers to pay a weekly or monthly fee, regardless of how often the child attends, holding a spot in a child care center is expensive and infeasible for workers unsure of when they will work that particular week.
If Connecticut really values working families, especially female headed households who struggle to make ends meet and provide for their families, then we need stronger policies that support the economic security of women who, just like me, are just trying to survive.
I support Fair Workweek legislation to end on-call shifts and increase predictability in pay. I urge Connecticut lawmakers to do the same.
Chenae Russell of East Hartford is a graduate student at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work and an intern at CT Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF).