All signs point toward a major winter weather event disrupting our region starting tomorrow. As families in all four D.C. quadrants head to grocery stores, hardware stores, big box retailers, and pharmacies to make sure they are covered in the event of a disruption of essential services, these stores are making sure they have more than enough staff on hand to stock the shelves, help customers, and man cash registers so that everything goes as smoothly as possible. In some cases longer lines are unavoidable, but retailers are doing everything they can to help every resident prepare.
This preparation would be severely hampered under proposed legislation being considered by the District of Columbia City Council, Committee on Business and Regulatory Affairs. Under this new law retailers like Costco, Lowe's, and Target would be mandated to set a work schedule for all employees 21 days in advance. Any change to that schedule—such as asking for volunteers to pick up additional hours to meet demand before a blizzard—would require the retailer to pay a series of penalties.
"This storm is an obvious real-world example for why scheduling legislation would be a disaster for local retailers and DC residents," said Jason Brewer, RILA's senior vice president of communications & advocacy. "In order to make sure the proper staff is in place to handle consumer demand in an event like this, store managers need the flexibility to ensure they have enough of a workforce to stock shelves and assist a huge infusion of customers. To my knowledge, no meteorologist in America predicted this super storm 21 days ago."
Retailers have already testified before the city council about the naturally fluctuating periods of demand that define their industry, but the storm offers a real-life example of the unintended consequences misguided policies can have on businesses and their customers in the district.
"Retailers are part of the community, and at times of highest demand they do everything possible to meet the needs of our neighbors whether they need milk, shovels, or medicine during an emergency," said Brewer. "Having flexibility and an open line of communication with your workforce are what allow businesses to prepare and react to unforeseen events like this so that retailers can ultimately meet the needs of our customers."
RILA is the trade association of the world’s largest and most innovative retail companies. RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities and distribution centers domestically and abroad.