Bush administration launches stealth attack on workers' rights
- Since 1938 most American workers have had the legal right to be paid 150% of
normal wages for work in excess of 40 hours per week. This helped make the
40 hour work week standard in many industries in which 60 hours had
previously been commonplace. For those who were still required to work
longer hours, living standards improved.
Now that American workers are largely distracted by war news, the Bush
administration and its allies in Congress are trying to gut this protection
of their rights. Many Americans will be hit hard in the pocketbook by this,
including a certain loyal Republican I know who must work 48 hours alternating
weeks. The following story appeared on page A13 of the Friday 4 April 2003
edition of the Arizona Republic and is credited to Leigh Strope of the
OVERTIME CHANGE ADVANCES IN HOUSE
Would Allow Time Off Instead of Cash
Washington--Employers now required to pay some workers overtime would be able
to offer paid time off instead, under legislation a House panel OK'd
The bill, agreed to by a House Workforce subcommittee, is a Republican effort
to revamp the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.
Business groups have been pressing for revisions to the law, which requires
pay at an hourly rate of time-and-a-half for some workers logging more than
40 hours a week.
The Labor Department last week proposed a drastic overhaul of the regulations
that determine what jobs must receive overtime pay. The plan would make
millions of low-income workers eligible for the time-and-a-half hourly rate,
but thousands of professionals would lose their extra income.
The House bill goes a step further by loosening provisions that mandate paid
overtime, allowing employers to offer compensatory time.
It currently is illegal for private companies to offer comp time instead of
overtime pay to workers who aren't exempt from the law.
The full committee will take up the bill next week. House leaders want a
floor vote by early May.
Republicans say the bill would give flexibility to employers and workers,
who are increasingly juggling demands of career and family.
"Working adults are very concerned about spending more time with their
families," said Judy Biggert, Republican of Illinois, the bill's sponsor.
"In fact, many would prefer to have time. ... Workers want and expect to have
The bill would let workers choose paid time off or overtime pay, both at a
rate of time-and-a-half. For example, if an employee worked 48 hours in a
week, he could choose eight hours of additional pay or 12 hours of time off.
Employees could accrue up to 160 hours of comp time annually, and companies
would have to pay cash for unused time at the end of the year.
But Democrats and labor unions opposing the bill say workers would lose
money and work longer hours. They say employers would start assigning
overtime to workers who agreed to choose comp time. The bill would allow
employers to decide when the time off could be taken.