Restaurant Worker
requested her testimony be anonymous for web 

My name is A. and I am a 38 year old single mother.  I worked in the restaurant industry for over 15 years and am very much in support of the Fair Workweek legislation.  Restaurant, retail and hospitality work can all be wonderful ways to supplement one’s income and also a great way to support a family however advance notice in scheduling is a necessity in making it work for both the worker and the worker’s family.  

In 2012, after giving birth to my child, I went back to work in the restaurant I had been working in for 5 years.  The establishment had always provided me with an income that I could live on and now that I was a mother it seemed even more ideal as it was close to home and within walking distance.  I had hit hard financial times during my high risk pregnancy and in my fifth month my doctor had ordered me to stop working and to stay off my feet. I had sold my vehicle in order to make ends meet and to keep the roof over my head so having a job I could walk to was a blessing. When I was medically able I immediately went back to work but quickly realized that the flexibility I had personally enjoyed as a single person with no children was now gone and in its place were the worries and concerns of a single mother.   I was now scrambling every week to arrange for childcare. In an industry where a regular shift can go until 11pm, midnight and sometimes even 2am it was already difficult to find childcare because of the late hours I kept. That difficulty became an impossibility many weeks as I was given my schedule sometimes only three or four days in advance. I gave up a number of lucrative shifts during that time period; shifts that would’ve paid my rent, bought formula or diapers and most importantly, provided me with an income that would help me work my way off of public assistance.   I was forced to give those shifts up because I did not have enough advance notice to arrange for childcare especially childcare that would allow me to work until the wee hours of the morning. I did not have an arsenal of help in those first 12 months. I was a new mother. I did not yet have a gaggle of friends who were also mothers and willing to lend a hand. My son did not have any grandparents, aunts or uncles who could pitch in. It was just us and as hard as it was to do most everything under those circumstances, by far the most difficult thing I had to do every day was figure out how I was going to be able to work.  

Because I was not able to work as much as I had before having a child, I ended up staying on public assistance longer than I would’ve liked.  I’d hoped that I would be able to work enough to support us but without advance notice of my schedule I was left too often with no childcare options and forced to give shifts away to others who had more flexibility.  Other nights I would go into work only to find that I wasn’t needed, that the childcare I had arranged was all for nothing, and the money I had depended on making was now just a fleeting hope that would never materialize.  

For so many folks like me working in retail, restaurant and hospitality industries is an ideal way to make a living however without advance notice of schedules many individuals and families suffer.  For me, what had once been a lucrative and flexible way to generate income had now become a source of constant worry, concern and anxiety. I had planned on being on public assistance for only the first few months after having a child and was determined to get back on my feet as quickly as possible.  I was eager to get back to work. I’d calculated exactly how much I would need to work in order to cover my expenses and put money away to save for a car however it was impossible to work that often without knowing my schedule far enough in advance in order to arrange childcare. It took me months to find a second job that I was able to access by a bus line that would get me there on time and it was only then that I was able to slowly work my way off of welfare.

I think most of the people at this hearing have heard a story or two and thought to themselves, “we should figure out a way to change that, to lessen that burden or to make this better.”  This fair workweek legislation is a way to do that. The issue is really quite simple. People who work need to know when they are required to work with some advance notice. To me, it doesn’t seem at all outlandish to want to make that happen.  I believe anyone who wants to make it harder for families to support themselves is blinded by a self-interest that undercuts the values outlined in our constitution which states that “Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people”.  Today I appeal to our state government to look favorably upon the fair workweek legislation. We have the opportunity to make it easier for people to both work and support their families and if our government is not seeking every opportunity to do that then I am at a loss for what the mission of our government is at all.  

Thank you for your time and consideration.

A.