Having been born and raised in Washington, D.C., I have seen firsthand the city’s ability to capitalize on economic opportunity, foster a committed and able workforce, and recover from booms and busts all while exhibiting a unique entrepreneurial spirit. I believe our best and brightest days are ahead. To move forward and get ahead, we must work to help District residents who are struggling — even in good times.

In the fight to improve living standards for the working class of our city, the D.C. Council is considering legislation to raise wages and provide improved benefits. Personally, I support these efforts. But tied to these important bills is another piece of legislation that could turn back the clock to a time when jobs and investment fled our city in favor of the suburbs. 

The legislation — The Hours and Scheduling Stability Act of 2015 — puts an undue burden on working parents, students, seniors, workers with multiple jobs and the entirety of the service industry. Proponents of the legislation have painted the effort in terms virtually no one could disagree with — giving workers better advance notice of their schedules. If that’s all it did, I think there would be little argument that the bill should be moved forward. However, the bill goes much further than that. It not only requires retailers and restaurants to post employees’ schedules nearly two weeks in advance, but penalizes a business anytime a manager or supervisor tries to communicate with their employees inside that window. 

For example: If “Joe” works from 9 to 5 on Monday but calls in sick, his employer would be financially punished for asking any of his co-workers if they would like to pick up his hours or swap shifts. Retailers and restaurants would be hamstrung when employees call in sick or are unable to make it to work because of a storm, transportation outage or other emergency beyond their control.

Equally as troubling is a provision in the bill aimed at eliminating part-time employment opportunities in the city. The bill would require retailers and restaurants to offer more hours to every existing employee before it is allowed to hire a new part-time worker. The logistics of such a requirement would be a nightmare for large retailers, but even worse it would decrease opportunity for struggling part-time workers, especially those who are interested in seasonal holiday work. 

High school and college students balancing a hectic schedule are often looking for part-time opportunities. Seniors who largely depend on Social Security often look for part-time work in the retail industry to help supplement their income without working too many hours in retirement. And working parents often seek part-time opportunities when the need to care for children or elderly parents makes full time work impossible. The scheduling bill before the City Council would limit opportunity for thousands of D.C. workers.

One of the hallmark programs of the late Marion Barry was the former mayor’s “Summer Youth Employment Program.” The program was designed to provide young people with the opportunity to earn money and gain meaningful work experience, learn and develop the skills to gain exposure to various career industries, and interact with professionals in a positive work environment. If misguided scheduling legislation is enacted, the job-placement opportunities for many of our young people will be diminished. 

In an era where communities fiercely compete for jobs and development, every opportunity to spur new jobs must be seized upon. It’s why every effort to create a beneficial work environment — for both employers and employees — is critical.

Honest work validates self-worth and lifts communities. Young people deserve a city that provides them with opportunities to earn a paycheck, gain valuable training and take the first steps toward adulthood. Seniors deserve a city that still affords them the opportunity to work part-time in retirement. And parents balancing family commitments shouldn’t have opportunities taken from them. In the pursuit of higher wages and better benefits for full-time workers we ought not ignore those looking for flexible employment opportunities that meet their own specific needs.

Steven D. Jumper, spokesman for the D.C. Jobs & Growth Partnership, is a District business owner and native of D.C.

Steven D. Jumper, spokesman for the D.C. Jobs & Growth Partnership, is a District business owner and native of D.C.

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