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Lawmakers consider boost to service industry worker rights

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Baristas, bartenders, seasonal workers and others in Oregon's robust service industry are at the center of early discussions in Salem about whether to afford them guaranteed pay and more control over their work schedules.

State lawmakers are considering legislation that would require certain employers to honor employees' preferred work hours and post employees schedules two weeks in advance, or otherwise pay a penalty wage for any changes.

Workers who are called in at the last-minute would also be paid at least four hours' worth of wages if, by the fault of their boss, they were unable to work a full shift.

House Bill 2193 and Senate Bill 828 — packaged as sister proposals in both chambers, — are backed largely by workers' rights groups and unions that sought to support their cause through a partnership study of irregular work schedules with the University of Oregon and Portland State University.

"Irregular scheduling acts as a poverty trap, for this generation and the next, as it actively diminishes the ability of the working poor to pursue a second job or the education they need to pursue better-paid occupations, and to provide for consistent care for their children while they are working," according to the partnership study, which the universities released Thursday.

Schedules posted or changed at the last minute, on-call shifts or a sudden drop in available hours after the busy holiday season imposes greater hardship on restaurant, retail, hotel and other service-related employees, who are often earning minimum wage and juggling school and family lives, the study said.

The proposals, which are still in the early stages of debate at the Legislature, come a year after a contentious statewide minimum wage increase to nearly $15 per hour by 2022 and this week's rosy economic forecast by state economists indicating Oregon remained ahead of the nation in terms of job growth and unemployment last year.

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