February 27, 2020

Senators Warren and Booker Introduce the Part-Time Workers Bill of Rights

Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky, Ayanna Pressley, Katie Porter and Rosa DeLauro will introduce the House Companion; Legislation would curb forced part-time work by giving existing workers access to additional work before employers can hire new workers; Part-time workers would also have access to benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act

Washington, D.C. -- United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), along with Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), today introduced the Part-Time Workers Bill of Rights. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), along with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chair of the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee, and Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-Calif.), introduced an identical bill in the House. Their legislation would strengthen protections for part-time workers and allow them to better balance their work schedules with personal and family needs. The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act will address one of the primary issues that hourly workers face -- work schedules that do not provide as many hours as they need to support their families -- and give part-time workers equal access to family and medical leave and retirement benefits.
“Giant companies force millions of workers to work part-time every year rather than hiring full-time staff to skimp on wages and benefits,” said Senator Warren. “I’m proud to partner with Senator Booker and Congresswomen Schakowsky, Pressley, DeLauro, and Porter on a bill that ends this exploitive business practice that prioritizes corporate profits over people, and give workers the opportunity to make enough to build futures for themselves and for their families.”
“Millions of workers across the country see more month at the end of their money than money at the end of the month. It’s well past time we balance the scales for part-time workers and empower them with the security and opportunity that comes with a predictable, well-paying job. I commend the efforts of Senator Warren and Congresswomen Schakowsky, Pressley, DeLauro, and Porter on this important legislation,” said Senator Booker.
The bill text was unveiled at today’s press conference with Congresswomen Schakowsky, Pressley, DeLauro, and Porter. They were joined by representatives of the Economic Policy Institute, the Center for Law & Social Policy and workers representing United for Respect and United Food & Commercial Workers to share first-hand perspectives on the impact of unpredictable work schedules and research on the part-time pay penalty and underemployment.
The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act would:

  • Require large employers to offer available hours to current, available, qualified part-time employees before hiring new employees or subcontractors. The legislation requires employers with more than 500 workers to compensate existing employees if they hire new employees instead of assigning new work to available, qualified, existing employees. 
  • Make more part-time employees eligible for family and medical leave. The legislation guarantees any employee who has worked for their employer for at least a year access to federal leave protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Allow part-time workers to participate in their employers' pension plans. The legislation amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to give part-time workers who have worked at least 500 hours for two consecutive years access to retirement plans if they are offered by their employers to full-time workers.
Corporations often give part-time workers fewer hours than they want and spread work among many part-time employees rather than hiring full-time employees, as an intentional strategy to avoid providing benefits and paying higher wages to workers in order to boost short-term profits.
A recent, groundbreaking study found that unpredictable schedules -- which often mean lack of access to enough working hours -- are associated with financial insecurity, housing insecurity, high stress, poor health outcomes, and, for parents, less time spent with children, which, in turn, leads to worse outcomes for children. One study found that 65% of respondents with part-time jobs had dealt with "at least one serious material hardship" in the past year. Workers facing these challenges are disproportionately women and workers of color as exposure to schedule instability is 16% higher among workers of color compared to white workers.
Laws to help workers access more work hours have already been passed as part of fair workweek laws across the country, including in Chicago, EmeryvilleNew York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and SeaTac.
Senator Warren and Congresswoman Schakowsky first unveiled their plans to introduce the bill in December 2019. In October 2019, Senator Warren and Congresswoman DeLauro announced plans to reintroduce the Schedules That Work Act, complementary legislation to help ensure that low-wage employees have more certainty about their work schedules and income. The Schedules That Work Act protects workers who ask for schedule changes from retaliation, and requires employers to consider their requests. For retail, food service, and cleaning occupations, it requires employers to provide schedules two weeks in advance. The legislation also provides compensation to these employees when their schedules change abruptly or they are assigned to particularly difficult shifts, including split shifts and call-in shifts.