Report: Uncertain work hours lead to food insecurity, anxiety in kids | Thursday Morning Coffee

October 17, 2019 7:27 am

(*This post has been updated to correct an editing error)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Labor advocates have raised the alarm that big chain companies have developed a business model that keeps their low-wage shift workers underemployed and desperate to pick up more hours.

And as Dan Neumannat our sister site, The Beacon, writes, a new study by The Shift Project, a joint research project by University of California researchers Daniel Schneider and Kristen Harknett, sheds light on the human costs of those unpredictable work schedules.

The report finds that “among 30,000 employees at 120 of the largest retail and food-service firms in the United States, the large majority of workers have little advance notice of their schedules: two-thirds have less than two weeks’ notice, and half of those get less than a week’s notice.”

In addition, “workers’ schedules are also often changed at the last minute, with 14 percent reporting at least one cancelled shift in the last month and 70 percent reporting at least one change to the timing of one of their shifts in the past month. Many workers are expected to work on-call shifts (25 percent) and back-to-back closing-then-opening shifts separated by less than 11 hours (“clopenings”) (50 percent).”

As Neumann notes, that’s because some retailers use “scheduling algorithms [to] track the ebb and flow of their customer traffic and precisely match their scheduling needs to it. For them, it’s a cost-cutting innovation that limits idle workers.”

For workers, however, it’s a cause of uncertainty.

(Source: The Shift Project)

As Neumann notes, researchers concluded “that six in 10 hourly workers nationally had experienced at least one material hardship over the prior year.”

In addition, a third of workers experienced food insecurity, saying that at least once in the past year they’d gone hungry or relied on free food from a soup kitchen or food pantry to get by.

And “when researchers focused specifically on those workers who experienced canceled shifts, those numbers were even higher. Forty-two percent reported hunger hardship compared with 29 percent of workers who did not report having shifts cancelled,” Neumann wrote.

“One in six of the surveyed workers experienced some form of housing insecurity, such as staying with other people, in a shelter, in an abandoned building, or in a car,” he wrote.

The toll is even more dire for those workers’ children, the report concluded.

(Source The Shift Project)

More than three-quarters of kids with parents with extremely unstable schedules exhibited anxious behavior, and behavioral issues were likely to increase.

“Kids thrive in environments of security, consistency, and support. These environments are difficult to maintain in the face of on-call shifts, last minute cancellations, changes to schedule timing, and clopening shifts,” the report reads. “We find that there is significantly more household economic insecurity in families with young children when parents work more unstable and unpredictable work schedules. We also find that parents have much less time for developmental activities with children, such as reading a book together or having a family meal, when their schedules are unstable and unpredictable.

In addition, “parents’ wellbeing also suffers: they sleep less well, are more psychologically distressed, and are less happy when working unstable and unpredictable work schedules — a relationship that we’ve documented for all workers, not just parents. The weight of household economic insecurity, parental stress, and disrupted family routines imposed by unstable and unpredictable work schedules ultimately depresses child wellbeing,” researchers found.

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Our Stuff.
Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes 
was in Pittsburgh on Wednesday for oral arguments before the state Supreme Court on whether to temporarily restore cash benefits for the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.

Stephen Caruso surveys the lay of the land among House Republicans when it comes to legalizing recreational cannabis.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says the Legislature should legalize fentanyl test strips, Caruso also reports. 

All but* two members of Pennsylvania’s 18-member congressional delegation joined the bipartisan chorus condemning President Donald Trump’s disastrous decision to pull U.S. forces out of northern Syria. Freshmen Republican U.S. Reps. Dan Meuser, R-9th District, and John Joyce, R-13th District, voted against the resolution that sailed through the U.S. House on Wednesday. Our Washington Bureau Chief, Robin Bravender, has the story.

On our Commentary Page, the ACLU-PA’s Nyssa Taylor says that if the Legislature is serious about criminal justice reform, it could start by not passing so many bills jacking up sentences and enhancing penalties for existing crimes.  And a Michigan State University scholar says the growth industry of keeping kids safe at school is struggling to fulfill its mission.

Y en la Estrella-CapitalLa Corte Superior explica porque Usted debe de prestarle atención a las elecciones de noviembre, por Sarah Anne Hughes. El número de personas discapacitadas que viven en centros estatales ha disminuido. Eso no significa  que no sería  controversial clausurarlos, por Stephen Caruso.

The late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. (Photo via Flickr Commons)

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.,
 a key figure in the impeachment probe of President Donald Trumphas died, aged 68, from complications due to long-standing health problems, the Associated Press reports (via the Inquirer).
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office has dropped its probe of the accused Tree of Life shooter’s favorite social media site, the Post-Gazette reports.
The British family that was detained at the ICE detention center in Berks County has been deported, the AP also reports (via The Morning Call).
A ‘major’ Pa. Liquor Control Board shipping contract has drawn scrutiny from a cadre of influential state lawmakers, PennLive reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

The Attorney General’s office is being asked to investigate possible racial bias by the Chester Twp. police, WHYY-FM reports. The request comes “after the release of a second video involving the arrest of a black man for loitering in front of his house and resisting arrest,” the station reports.
New voting systems are about to go into service in more than half of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, the PA Post reports.
A former Republican county commissioner from Lehigh County, Lisa Scheller, says she’ll challenge U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, in 2020PoliticsPA reports.
Glitches in California, that allowed a handful of non-citizens to register, have emboldened automatic voter registration foes, reports.
Talking Points Memo has the details on that disastrous White House meeting between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

What Goes On.
The House Democratic Policy Committee legs it to Thomas Jefferson University in Philly for a 2 p.m. hearing on “comprehensive sex education,” put on by Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia. <<insert side eye emoji here>>

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
6 p.m.:
 Reception for Rep. Martina White
6:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Jason Ortitay
Hit both events, and give at the max, and you’re out a truly staggering $12,500 today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Have a birthday for yourself or someone else you’d like celebrated in this space? Email us on [email protected].

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s one that we were tipped to by a friend, it’s Kaytranada and ‘Dysfunctional.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
dropped one, losing 5-2 to San Jose in a late game on the West Coast on Wednesday night.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.