Democratic presidential hopeful Massachusetts’ Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks to supporters at a rally outside the New Hampshire State House, after signing papers to officially enter the New Hampshire Primary race in Concord, New Hampshire on November 13, 2019.
Joseph Prezioso | AFP | Getty Images
Just as the holiday shopping season kicks into overdrive, presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday introduced a measure to protect part-time workers, which companies from Target to UPS bulk up on to help handle extra work during the peak period for retailers.
The measure would require large employers to offer employees more hours before hiring new employees or subcontractor. It would also allow part-time workers to participate in employers’ pension plan and eligible for family and medical leave.
The bill, which was also introduced by Rep.Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., is the latest of example of Warren’s push to introduce legislation that protects worker rights as the income gap has widened and record corporate profits have made lower-income workers feel left behind.
Warren is among the leading Democratic candidates for president, and she is jockeying for the support of labor groups and unions with the likes of fellow progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders and front-runner Joe Biden, the former vice president.
Unions, which typically favor Democratic candidates, remain influential in rallying voters. Amid a crowded Democratic field, the AFL-CIO − one of the largest federations of U.S. unions − has said it is withholding its presidential candidate endorsement until February. That’s when the first four nominating contests of the primary election season occur – in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Warren framed the proposed “Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act” as a matter of fairness and economic security.
“For far too long, companies trying to boost their profits have taken advantage of part-time workers by assigning them unpredictable work schedules – creating real hardships for them,” said Warren of Massachusetts. “My legislation with Congresswoman Schakowsky puts an end to this practice by giving part-time workers the rights, stability, and other protections they deserve to build better financial futures for themselves and for their families.”
Schakowsky accused companies of using part-time status to “rig the system and maximize profits while exacerbating income inequality.”
While part-time workers can be cheaper for a company, a tight labor market has forced retailers in recent years to offer better benefits in a fight for human capital. It’s also led many to rely more heavily on current workers. A survey done by the executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry found that 63% of respondents are also planning to give permanent workers more hours this year, when they aren’t able to find people to fill shorter-term roles.
Walmart said in 2017 it would give its employees extra hours during this holiday season, rather than offering those hours to seasonal workers.
Target has said it is offering its 125,000 seasonal workers a minimum wage of $13 an hour, in line with its starting minimum hourly wage for full-time workers. The retailer did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the proposed bill and further benefits it would offer.
UPS is giving its 100,000 seasonal workers $25,000 in tuition assistance and health care and retirement benefits. It likewise did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the proposed bill and further benefits it would offer.
CNBC’s Lauren Thomas and Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.