Robert Hiltonsmith, senior policy analyst at Demos, a progressive think tank, expects the positive trends to continue -- even if Tuesday’s survey suggests employers overall aren’t relenting on tough and irregular scheduling demands. “I think it’s a slow burn, but the pressure’s mounting,” he says.
It’s in part a question of economic self-interest, Hiltonsmith says. Burned-out workers tend to quit their jobs fairly quickly, and high turnover is expensive. That’s one of the reasons why Walmart, the nation’s largest private-sector employer, and its top competitors voluntarily hiked wages earlier this year, according to Hiltonsmith. In fact, when Walmart announced it was boosting starting pay to at least $9 an hour, it also promised to notify workers of their schedules at least two and a half weeks in advance.
Reforms like this and others -- shifts that are scheduled the same time every week -- could prevent retailers from losing employees like Roy-Rankin, the kind of people who are otherwise content at work.
There’s also mounting political pressure, which stems from growing public concern over the livelihood of service-sector workers. Hiltonsmith attributes this to the “seismic shifts in the labor force” -- the decades-long decline of manufacturing and growth in service-sector employment.
Contrary to the popular image, retail workers are not teenagers looking to make a quick buck. The median age of a retail trade employee is 38, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“I think people had less concern when it wasn’t people trying to support their families,” Hiltonsmith says. “For better or worse, the service economy is the economy of the country’s future.”