Employment and Jobs

Job Quality Newsletter — Holiday Edition

November 9, 2023  • Maureen Conway

The holiday season is here, and many of us will soon be shopping for gifts, preparing large meals and gatherings, and traveling so see our loved ones. Much of the joy and festivities that happen over the next couple of months will be due in no small part to the dedication and commitment of workers. Farm, food processing, restaurant, and grocery workers are essential to our holiday meals. Retail and warehouse workers, as well as delivery and truck drivers, are key to the special gifts we get for our kids and loved ones. And ride-share drivers and other transportation workers make sure we arrive safely to our celebrations. Many of the workers that deliver us happiness this holiday season, however, may not share in the season’s joys. 

Some workers’ extraordinary efforts will yield earnings too meager for them to buy the food and gifts their work makes available to others. Others will endure dangerous working conditions, jeopardizing their own health and well-being. And some will be at the whims of unstable and unpredictable schedules, with many missing out on their own holiday celebrations. In this month’s newsletter, we highlight the contributions of some of these workers, shine a light on the poor working conditions they endure on our behalf, and offer ideas for change that can ensure the holidays are truly a time of joy for all.  

Shareable graphic for the Aspen Institute event, “Unstable Schedules: Unwrapping the Challenges and Solutions for Service Workers,” happening on Zoom on November 15 at 2 p.m. ET. The image includes a photo of an alarm clock and a calendar. The RSVP link is as.pn/unstable schedules.

Event:  Unstable Schedules: Unwrapping the Impact on Service Workers

The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration for many across the US, but it also brings uncertainty and stress for workers facing unpredictable schedules. Workers in the service and retail industries in particular are often on call for shifts and have their schedules changed  with very little notice. Join us virtually on Wednesday, November 15, 2023, from 2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Eastern time, for our next event, “Unstable Schedules: Unwrapping the Impact on Service Workers,” where an expert panel will discuss the latest research on the experiences of workers grappling with schedule instability, how and why some businesses adopt worker-friendly scheduling practices, what we are learning from states and cities with fair workweek laws, and opportunities for change. RSVP now.

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Schedule Stability: A Win for Retail Businesses and Their Workers. In this blog, Rachel Korn, the director of research at the Center for WorkLife Law, explores the benefits of stable work schedules for both businesses and employees, including increased sales, improved productivity, and better employee health.

Blog Post: Field to Feast: The Workers and Hazardous Jobs Behind our Thanksgiving Meal

The holiday season is a time when many families come together to celebrate, enjoy each other’s company, and share a meal. In this blog, “Field to Feast: The Workers and Hazardous Jobs Behind our Thanksgiving Meal,” EOP Senior Project Manager Merrit Stüven describes how the systems and processes that bring food to our table pose an active risk for the workers who make it happen. And she explains how providing safe work environments and protecting workers’ physical and psychological health is a necessary baseline for building a more just economy. Read more.

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Reinventing Restaurant Work: An Overdue Call for Equity and Job Quality. This blog explores the need for systemic change in the restaurant industry, including the ongoing concerns over racial injustice and poor job quality and insights and recommendations for a more inclusive and prosperous future in the restaurant industry.

Video: A Workers’ Bill of Rights: What We Want and How to Get There

Labor organizing at the turn of the last century ushered in a sweeping new set of workers’ rights and protections. But work isn’t what it used to be. Changes in technology, globalization, demographics, and the nature of work itself have reshaped the landscape of economic opportunity. What would a modern set of protections look like today? In May 2022, we convened an exceptional slate of speakers to discuss “A Workers’ Bill of Rights: What We Want and How to Get There,” including Jaz Brisack of Starbucks Workers United and Linda Nguyen of UFCW Local 770, who shared their insights on how to improve working conditions in fast food and food retail. Check it out.


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Breakthroughs from the Field: Learning to Support the Retail Workforce. This blog delves into the changing nature of retail work, the importance of worker retention, and the collaborative efforts of various organizations in improving job quality and opportunities for retail workers, with a focus on learning and sharing insights.