Berkeley Flexible Work Time Initiative



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Work Time and
the Environment

Work Time and
the Family

Work Time and
the Good Life

Work Time and Economics

Work Time Choice
is a Success

Work Time Choice: Model Policies


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Initiative Text



Initiative Text


Section 1: Title

This initiative shall be known and may be cited as "The Berkeley Flexible Work Time Initiative of 2014." [Note: This may be changed depending on the title provided by the city attorney.]

Section 2: Findings and Declarations

The people of Berkeley find and declare as follows:

2.1: Most Americans do not have a practical option of working part-time.

2.1.a: Most part-time jobs pay less per hour than full-time jobs and have no benefits.  Economist Juliet Schor has estimated that, if the average male worker leaves his full-time job and gets a part-time job that cuts his hours by 50 percent, he will cut his earnings by 80 percent because of the lower pay and benefits for part-time workers.

2.1.b: To work in most occupations, you have no choice but to take a full-time job.

2.2: Giving people the option of working part-time would have important social and environmental benefits.

2.2a: Work-Family Balance: Choice of work hours would help parents to balance the demands of work and family. Our standard 40-hour week dates back to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, a time when the typical American family had a father who worked full-time and a mother who stayed at home with the children. Today, most American families with children have no stay-at-home parent. The labor standards of the 1930s do not give our families the flexibility they need to balance work and family obligations.

2.2.b: Employment: Choice of work hours would reduce unemployment, as employers hired more people to replace workers who cut their hours from full-time to part-time. In the Netherlands, they say that increased part-time work was the main cause of the "Dutch employment miracle" of the 1990s, when unemployment fell from 13% in the mid-1980s to 6.7% in 1996, the lowest level in western Europe. If we let the federal government's civilian employees choose their work hours, and if they chose to work as much as the average German employee, this change alone would create almost one-half million jobs, at a much lower cost than any other federal jobs program.

2.2.c: Environment: Choice of work hours would reduce our impact on the environment, because people who choose to work less, earn less, and spend less would also pollute less.  If Americans worked as few hours as western Europeans, it would lower our energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, according to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

2.2.d: Quality of life: Choice of work hours would increase people’s satisfaction with their lives, because people would choose to work shorter hours only if they thought this would improve their lives. 

2.3: Other nations have successfully adopted policies that allow workers to choose part-time work, and similar laws have recently been adopted in the United States.

2.3.a: Workers are allowed to choose part-time work by the Netherlands’ Working Hours Adjustment Act (2000) and by Germany’s Part-Time and Fixed Term Contract Act (2001).  Both these laws allow workers who have had a job for a specified amount of time (six months or one year) to request a change to part-time work, and they require the employer to grant the request unless the employer can show that there are operational reasons that prevent  this position from being part-time.

2.3.b: Care-givers, such as people with children under 6 years old and people with disabled children, are given the right to request part-time work by the United Kingdom’s Flexible Working Act (2002). Employers cannot penalize or discriminate against employees who request shorter hours, and employers are required to respond to the employee's request, though there are no sanctions if the employer refuses the request.

2.3c: Vermont’s H99 An Act Relating to Equal Pay, which was passed in 2013, gives employees the right same to request as the United Kingdom but applies to all employees, not just care givers.

2.4c: San Francisco’s Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance, which was passed in 2013, applies only to care givers, gives employees the right to request part time work, requires employees to respond to the request, but allows the employer to refuse the request for any bona fide business reason and does not allow any appeal if the employer refuses the request.

2.4: An economy can be successful with large numbers of part-time worker. In 2010, 48.5% of Dutch workers were part-time, and this country has an efficient economy with high productivity per worker hour.

Section 3: Provisions

3.1: We advise the city of Berkeley to pass a right-to-request law that applies to employees in Berkeley.

3.1a: The provisions of Berkeley's right-to-request law can be based on the provisions of the Working Families Flexibility Act, first introduced in Congress in 2007 as Senate Bill S. 2419, and on the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance, passed by San Francisco in 2013. It should apply to all employees, not only to care givers.

3.1b: The city should fine-tune the ordinance based on the comments the city receives from the public. For example, the city should exempt small businesses from the requirements of the law, and should also modify the law in any other ways that are useful to accommodate the needs of Berkeley’s employers and employees.

3.2: Within 90 days of passage of this measure, the city of Berkeley shall write letters to the Governor, Senate and Assembly of the state of California and to the President, Senate, and House of Representatives the United States, calling on them to take action to allow more choice of work hours.

3.2a: This letter shall call on the federal and state government to implement policies giving government employees the right to request shorter work hours, and to grant these requests if they would not cause operational problems

3.2b: This letter shall also call on the federal government to pass the Working Families Flexibility Act, first introduced in Congress in 2007 as S. 2419 and HR 4301, and shall call on the state government to pass a law with similar provisions. The Working Families Flexibility Act gives employees the right to request shorter hours and more flexible work arrangements.

3.2c: Section 4 contains the text of the letter that the city shall send.

Section 4: Text of the Letter

The city of Berkeley shall send the following letter to California’s Governor, Senate and Assembly and to the United States’ President, Senate, and House of Representatives:

To <insert the name of the addressee>
The voters of the city of Berkeley, California, have passed a ballot initiative that made the following findings:

<insert the text of sections 2.1 through 2.4, without the section numbers >

In light of these facts, we urge you to immediately pass a law with the provisions of the Working Families Flexibility Act, first introduced in Congress in 2007 as S. 2419. This law gives employees the right to request flexible hours. It prevents employers from penalizing or discriminating against employees who request shorter hours, and it requires employers to respond to the request, but it does not impose any sanctions on employers who refuse the request. To avoid burdening small businesses, we recommend that small businesses should be exempted from this law.

(We do not support another bill with the same name, H.R. 1406, the Working Families Flexibility Act introduced in the House of Representatives in 2013, which would would not provide any right to request flexible hours or working conditions and which would deny employees with flexible schedules the right to time-and-a-half pay for overtime on weeks when they do work more than 40 hours.)

We also urge you to adopt a policy giving government employees the right to request shorter hours, and to grant these requests when they would not create operational problems. We urge you to hire new employees to fill in for those who have cut their hours. This program could create large numbers of jobs for the small cost of rescheduling, much less than the cost of other government jobs programs.

<signed by the city of Berkeley>


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