A committee of Colorado lawmakers rejected a bill Thursday that would’ve required some restaurants and other service industry businesses to release employees’ schedules two weeks in advance.
The House’s Business Affairs and Labor Committee — which includes four Republicans and seven Democrats — rejected House Bill 23-1118 in an 8-2 vote. Rep. Regina English (D) was not present for the vote.
The bill would’ve required certain service industry businesses with more than 250 employees to release schedules in advance and pay workers for last-minute schedule changes.
Two Denver Democrats were the bill’s prime sponsors — Reps. Emily Sirota and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez. They said the bill would offer workers more predictability and financial security, and they would still be able to swap shifts.
In a Business Affairs and Labor Committee hearing for the bill on Feb. 16, members heard seven hours of testimony from Coloradans who were both for and against the proposal.
Bobby Stuckey, who opened Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder nearly two decades ago, was one of the restaurateurs who testified.
“I was there for all seven hours of testimony,” Stuckey said. “It was a long day, and as the day went, I think the legislators saw how the bill was not written well — it wasn’t written by people really trying to look at the whole ecosystem, they’re trying to look at one little niche.”
Stuckey owns the Frasca Hospitality Group, which includes two restaurants in Boulder and two in Denver.
“I’m a restaurant owner who’s very pro-employee,” Stuckey said. “When I was testifying, a lot of employees were like, ‘thank you for caring about the whole ecosystem,’ because I do care about the employees, and our company really leads with that first and foremost.”
Before this week’s committee vote on the bill, the Colorado Restaurant Association released a letter signed by more than 640 workers who were against the bill.
Sonia Riggs, president and CEO of the association, said the proposal would’ve taken away employees’ freedom.
“The restaurant industry is a professional haven for creative, hard-working people who need flexible scheduling so they can manage other aspects of their lives, such as childcare, school, and second jobs,” she said. “We are grateful to the committee members for listening to the hundreds of restaurant operators and employees who raised their voices in force against this bill over the past several weeks.”
Riggs said the bill would’ve also set back the progress many Colorado restaurants have made after the pandemic.
“The industry is nowhere near recovered from three years of operational challenges and soaring inflation, and this bill would have irreparably harmed Colorado restaurant workers, consumers, and businesses of all sizes.”
Organizations such as the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and Restaurant Workers United spoke up in favor of the bill, saying it would give employees security and basic protections.
“Everyone deserves the right to know when they’ll be free to spend time with their family and take care of themselves,” Restaurant Workers United said in a statement released prior to the hearing.
Some workers also testified at the hearing, saying their colleagues may not speak up in favor of such a proposal for fear of retaliation.
The Leader reached out to Sirota and Gonzales-Gutierrez, but neither responded to a request for comment.