By Peter Szekely
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York on Tuesday became the third and largest major U.S. city to guarantee a measure of scheduling smoothness to fast food workers, whose lives are often disrupted by last-minute changes based on their employers' manpower needs.
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a package of bills that the city estimates will cover some 65,000 fast food and retail workers. A key component of the package is a requirement that fast food restaurants schedule their workers at least two weeks in advance or pay extra for shift changes.
"Predictable schedules and predictable paychecks should be a right, not a privilege," de Blasio said before signing the legislation into law. "With these bills, we are continuing to build a fairer and more equitable city for all New Yorkers."
The legislation also ensures that fast food workers have breaks of at least 11 hours between shifts and are given the option of working additional hours before their employers hire extra workers. San Francisco and Seattle have already enacted similar laws.
The New York State Restaurant Association said the penalties for changing workers' shifts - ranging from $10 to $75 per change - will raise costs and add burdensome record-keeping requirements.
"This legislation unfortunately is going to hurt these quick service establishments, many of which are franchises and are owned by what you would deem small business owners," said Kevin Dugan, the group's regional director.
With several states and municipalities having increased their minimum wages to as high as $15 an hour in recent years, scheduling in the often unstable fast-food sector has become the new frontier for unions and advocates for low-wage workers.
Supporters of the legislation, which include the Service Employees International Union and several other unions, say fast food workers frequently have shifts eliminated at the last minute, or added at times that may conflict with other jobs or child care needs.
Similar scheduling measures for fast food, retail or other workers have been introduced in several states and are pending in Connecticut, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Texas, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The New York City package, which takes effect in six months, also would ban unpaid on-call scheduling of retail employees and would enable fast-food workers to contribute voluntarily to worker advocacy groups or other non-profit groups, but not unions, through payroll deduction.
(Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Dan Grebler)