August 04, 2003
Working Family News
Bush Move to Strip Overtime Draws More Fire
July 31--A growing public outcry over the Bush administration's plan to eliminate overtime pay protections for as many as 8 million workers has drawn charges that the Labor Department is overstepping its authority
in a special congressional hearing July 31.
The hearing followed the July 29 introduction of legislation (S. 1485) by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) that would block Bush's Department of Labor from gutting the Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA's) overtime pay protections.
Since the Labor Department announced its plan to strip overtime from a broad range of workers--from nurses and firefighters to retail clerks and engineering technicians--it has received more than 80,000 public comments, which the department acknowledges are mostly negative.
"Eliminating overtime pay is yet another step in the wrong direction for our economy by the Bush administration. Workers and their families depend on this money to supplement their income and make ends meet. It's incomprehensible that the administration would want to strip away this money from hard-working Americans as the economy continues to stumble," said Sen. Kennedy.
When Congress passed the FLSA, which set wage and hour standards, it "intended the protections of the 40-hour workweek to apply to the vast majority of workers
, with the exception of only a narrowly limited class of workers....Congress plainly did not intend, nor did it empower the DOL (Department of Labor) to repeal the 40-hour workweek for the vast majority of Americans through regulation,"
Christine Owens, AFL-CIO director of Public Policy, told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education during the special hearing called by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) questioned the Labor Department's legal authority
to so drastically change the FLSA during a July 29 hearing on the nomination of Howard M. Radzely as solicitor of the Department of Labor. She noted for the past 70 years, the Labor Department has interpreted rules to make the vast majority of Americans as eligible for overtime because that was Congress' intent
when it passed the FLSA.
She called the overtime proposal contrary to the intent of the legislation and "a power grab" by Labor Secretary Elaine Chao "on behalf of the president."
At the July 31 hearing, Economic Policy Institute (EPI) Vice President Ross Eisenbrey said, "The paychecks of millions of workers are at stake....There is no reason for workers to sacrifice one of this country's bedrock entitlements."
The Kennedy/Harkin bill is expected to be one of the first votes held when Congress returns from its summer recess in September
. It may be offered as an amendment to the fiscal year 2004 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations bill or it may be voted on as a stand-alone piece of legislation. The House killed a similar amendment July 14 when it voted on the appropriations bill.
Under the Bush proposal, workers exempt from overtime rights could face unpredictable work schedules and reduced pay because of an increased demand for extra hours for which employers would not have to compensate workers, according to an EPI report released June 26.
Workers making more than $22,100
a year could be denied overtime pay under the proposed changes if they are reclassified as professional, administrative or executive employees exempt from federal overtime rules.
Send an e-mail to President Bush telling him to stop attacking overtime pay._
Learn more about the Bush administration's proposed changes to overtime pay regulations and other measures attacking the 40-hour workweek and hear what workers have to say._
Find out how the Bush attacks on overtime pay would affect your state and region._
Read the EPI report on 8 million workers losing their right to overtime pay._
Get the details on Bush's overtime proposal._
Find out about current overtime rules and what you can do if denied overtime pay._
See how today's economy affects working families.
Visit the Communications Workers of America website and read CWA President Morton Bahr's take on the overtime attack, plus "How to Cheat Workers 101" and more.
Listen to_The Newspaper Guild/CWA press conference about the attack on overtime.
Get perspectives on overtime from the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and the Fire Fighters.
Tell your senators to block the Bush overtime take away. Act now to voice your opposition to changes in federal overtime rules, which could deny overtime pay to at least 8 million people. Send a message to your U.S. senators with a copy to your Congressman and President Bush at: