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The Seattle Restrictive Scheduling Threat


Dear Mayor Murray,

On behalf of our members, I am writing to express serious concerns about the methodology and presentation of “Scheduling in Seattle: Current State of Practice and Prospects for Intervention,” the recently-released study by Vigdor Measurement & Evaluation (“Vigdor study”), which was commissioned by the City of Seattle.

First and foremost, at no time during his presentation July 26 presentation to the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development & Arts Committee did Dr. Vigdor state that the study does not meet the standard of a “scientific survey.” Because the study’s participants self-selected to participate in the on-line survey, the survey’s sample was not scientifically selected and the survey is statistically meaningless.

As the National Council on Public Polls (“NCPP”), the association of professional polling organizations, states on its website:

The key reason that some polls reflect public opinion accurately and other polls are unscientific junk is how people were chosen to be interviewed. In scientific polls, the pollster uses a specific statistical method for picking respondents. In unscientific polls, the person picks himself to participate.

Answer to Question 4 in “20 Questions a Journalist Should Ask About Poll Results,” National Council on Public Polls (http://www.ncpp.org/node/4/#4)

Or, in the words of the NCPP, the Vigdor study is “junk” and “unscientific.” By any ethical standard, Dr. Vigdor had an obligation to explicitly state that his study is unscientific and lacking in any statistical value.

Our second area of concern involves the organization of the presentation. Given that the study was (1) purchased with public resources and (2) intended to provide information to policymakers on an important and complex issue, we assume that the goal of this study was an honest examination of the attitudes of employees about the scheduling of their work hours.

Regrettably, Dr. Vigdor’s presentation of his study results revealed a strong bias to the most negative portrayal of employee attitudes. Remarkably, his “key findings” did not include that more than 80% of employees reported:

  • Employee can specify availability
  • Employee can limit availability
  • Employee can swap shifts
  • And more than 75% report they can pick up additional hours

This “good news” is buried in Figure 8 on page 21. And how did Dr. Vigdor characterize these responses?

Survey data show that Seattle’s shift employees generally have the ability to set some parameters governing their schedule, for example specifying times when they are not available (85%; see figure 8). Most have the capacity to swap shifts or pick up extra shifts. (Vigdor study, page 20)

Instead, Dr. Vigdor’s first “key finding” was that “thirty percent of employee respondents indicated that their work schedule created serious problems with their family, their budget, or other life priorities.” (Vigdor study, page ii)

Even with that statistic, when you dig deeper into the Vigdor study, you find Figure 10 on page 26 (“Employee reports of scheduling-related difficulty”). Here is the most frequently cited “hardship:”

Your ability to pursue hobbies and interests outside of work

That’s right. The most frequently cited “hardship” (by more than 35% of respondents) was that work gets in the way of their “ability to pursue hobbies and interests outside of work.”

Dr. Vigdor’s second “key finding” was:

Insufficient hours are a prime source of hardship. Three in ten respondents to our employee survey indicated a desire to work more hours at their primary job. (Vigdor study, page ii)

Again, if you dig deeper, you find Figure 12 on page 32 and realize that Dr. Vigdor chose to keep out of his key findings that 63% of employees – more than double the figure cited – are “Satisfied with current hours.”

Contrary to Dr. Vigdor’s presentation, a full and fair reading of this flawed study fails to identify pervasive and widespread problems with employee scheduling. And the problems that are identified, such as racial disparities in the work experience of employees, deserve more careful examination by a scientifically-valid study.

We appreciate the time and effort that the Mayor and City Council are investing in developing a better understanding of this complex issue. Unfortunately, the Vigdor study does nothing to advance that understanding.

The Washington Retail Association and our members are happy to provide detailed information about the realities of employee scheduling in Seattle. We look forward to continuing this conversation with you.


Jan Teague


Washington Retail Association

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