Martin O’Malley Brings Workers’ Chaotic Schedules Into The Presidential Race

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHARLIE NEIBERGALL
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHARLIE NEIBERGALL

On Thursday, former Maryland governor and Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley released what he’s calling a “21st century worker bill of rights,” laying out a laundry list of items he would push for if he became president.

Some of them are familiar ground for his fellow Democratic hopefuls, such as calling for paid family leave, equal pay, and reducing the burden of college debt. But he also surfaced some ideas that haven’t gotten much traction in the campaign thus far.

Two of his so-called rights address the chaos many people who work in service jobs like retail experience: erratic schedules and the inability to get full-time positions. Under the banner “The Right To A Predictable Weekly Schedule,” O’Malley promises to “lobby for, pass, and implement the Schedules That Work Act.” That’s a bill that Democrats in Congress introduced to require that employers give at least two weeks notice of schedules and pay workers who are told to be available for an on-call shift but not asked to come in or who get sent home before the end of their scheduled shift.

Scheduling has become a more prominent issue given that at least 10 percent of the country’s workforce is given irregular or on-call shifts, and the share is even larger among retail employees — more than a quarter. “Erratic and constantly changing schedules leave many workers — especially in growing low-wage industries — unable to plan ahead to make ends meet,” O’Malley says.

Beyond struggling to get predictable hours, many workers also simply struggle to get enough hours to make enough money to support themselves. Another right, “The Right To Full-Time Work,” promises that O’Malley will “launch a new, national campaign to promote full-time employment” and also support policies similar to the recently passed Retail Workers Bill of Rights in San Francisco. On top of requiring two weeks notice of schedules and pay for on-call shifts that don’t end up in work, the law requires employers to give part-time workers the ability to take on additional hours before hiring more part-time workers. Part-time employees are also required to be paid the same starting wage as full time ones and to have access to the same benefits.

One reason that chaotic schedules are difficult for workers is that it makes planning other things, like child care, nearly impossible. But another big challenge with child care is the sheer cost. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have addressed this issue, but O’Malley puts his own spin on it.

Beyond joining his rivals in calling for universal pre-K, he also says he would “set a goal of guaranteeing that no family, especially low- and middle-income families, has to pay more than 10 percent of their income on safe, affordable childcare in a given year.” As part of that, he says he would “dramatically expand” current child care tax credits on an income-based sliding scale. The document links to a proposal from the Center for American Progress, which houses ThinkProgress, that calls for a tax credit of up to $14,000 per child for low- and middle-income families, with families contributing up to 12 percent of their own income on a sliding scale.