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  xThursday, June 05, 2003

gop fails to drum up votes to gut labor law


Wow, here's some good news:
WASHINGTON (AP) - House Republican leaders yanked an overtime pay bill from Thursday's schedule after failing to find enough votes for passage, a rare win for labor unions in a Congress controlled by the GOP.

Wednesday's move followed a massive lobbying effort by organized labor that targeted moderate House Republicans.

The measure would let hourly workers who log more than 40 hours in a week choose between overtime pay or compensatory time off at a later date. Private companies are barred under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act from offering comp time as an option to millions of workers covered by the law.

...Supporters say the bill provides flexibility to workers who increasingly are juggling demands of career and family. It would let workers accrue compensatory time off to attend parent-teacher conferences, school events or whatever they choose, with their employers' approval.

Labor leaders say the current overtime law acts as a protection to the 40-hour work week because companies wanting more work from their employees now must provide premium pay — and often think twice about it. They also argue that if the bill becomes law, employers will assign overtime only to workers who agree to choose comp time, even though the measure prohibits the practice.

"We're going to keep educating members of Congress and the general public about what's at stake," said Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO's legislative director. "With more time to explain what's at stake, opposition will grow."

...Labor officials hope to move their momentum from the fight to the Labor Department, where officials are drastically changing the criteria that determines which workers are eligible for overtime pay. The final regulation, which does not need approval by Congress, could be issued by fall.

Excellent. No matter what friendly-sounding name the GOP cooked up for this bill, it was widely seen as an end run around the 40-hour work week, and it thoroughly deserves defeat.

Reality check here: In my career, I've rarely encountered a work environment that wasn't already reasonable about offering some kind of flex time, apart from any overtime system. Companies should recognize that as in their best interests: Otherwise, employees simply take sick days when they need personal time. (Indeed, several companies call them "personal days" rather than "sick time," to encourage employees to be upfront and give notice of occasional absences.)

Moreover, I'm sure my friends who are so-called "exempt" (that is, salaried) employees will attest that a company that doesn't have to pay its workers overtime for extra work won't hesistate to demand more time from them if need be, especially then the desire to cut costs results in a too-small roster. I've certainly been there, and while I've never shirked extra work, there's no question at all that companies will .

At a time when CEO pay outpaces that of the average worker by a substantial and growing margin, it's outrageous that the GOP should tinker with laws that prevent unscrupulous corporations from squeezing unpaid overtime from their workers.





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