Hour Crisis: Unstable Schedules in the Los Angeles Retail Sector

The retail sector is an integral part of the Los Angeles landscape with almost half a million workers in the county, and 147,157 workers in the city. Retail makes up one-tenth of the private sector workforce in the county and is its second largest employer. Yet more than half of the county’s workforce earn low wages. In the past few years, local and statewide policies have focused on transforming low-wage work, including a raise in the minimum wage, increased worker protections, and required paid time off. Despite the statewide strengthening of workers’ rights protections, the unreliable hours and unpredictable schedules endemic in the retail industry mean these benefits become inaccessible to many workers. In part, the retail industry relies on scheduling practices that are not good for workers, such as forcing them to wait for their weekly schedules with only a few days notice. These practices not only undercut workers’ hours and their expectations thereof, but also their incomes, and can make it nearly impossible for workers to realize full and healthy lives.

Hour Crisis: Unstable Schedules in the Los Angeles Retail Sector explores worker hours and scheduling practices for “frontline floor” staff that include salespersons, cashiers, stockers, and food workers in large and chain stores. We used a participatory and research justice approach and worked with students, workers, and community partners to collect and analyze the data. Using mixed-sampling methodology, we collected a total of 818 surveys. In addition, we analyzed government data and conducted an extensive review of existing policy and academic literature on the topic.