Across the country, retail and fast-food employees have said that unpredictable work schedules, the kind churned out by computer programs, wreak havoc on their lives.

They don’t know how many hours they’re going to get each week, so they don’t know how much money they’re going to make. Inconsistent hours make it impossible to plan for child care or classes or other part-time jobs. And often, they want to work more hours but can’t get them.

Advocates have branded the issue as the fight for a “fair workweek,” and such cities as San Francisco, Seattle, and New York have all passed laws to tackle these issues. Now, lawmakers in Philadelphia, where the retail and hospitality industry is responsible for nearly one-fifth of jobs, have made the first step to do the same.

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