Legislation making its way through the General Assembly as two identical bills — H7634 (Williams, Regunberg, Tanzi, Slater, and Maldonado) and H7515 (Bennett, Hull, Regunberg, Maldonado, and Diaz) — should really be career enders for the politicians who have signed onto it. Partly it should be so because they don’t understand economics, but more importantly, it shows they don’t understand their role as legislators.
In a nutshell, the legislation would force all employers in Rhode Island, no matter their size or industry, to set work schedules two weeks in advance and compensate employees if the schedule changes for any reason, after that. Beyond that, the bill is 14 pages of new regulations on businesses, making it more difficult for them to manage their employees, right up to and including forbidding employers to reward employees who work more hours with faster promotion.
It’s true. If either of these bills passes, there will be a section of Rhode Island law actually titled “Equal treatment for employees regardless of hours worked.” The fact that such legislation would actually be proposed, with the immediate support of more than a single legislator, is a signal that people would be crazy to start businesses in Rhode Island or to hire any employees.
The legislation would be pretty aggressive even if it were just a section in a specific contract governing a particular group of employees in a particular workplace, but at least that would involve both workers and their employer considering the specific circumstances of their occupation and location. This is a law imposed on all businesses in the state.
Contrary to what elected officials may believe, their role is not to serve as labor union reps for every worker in the state.