Nearly two weeks after the US House approved President Bush’s proposed Department of Labor (DOL) rule change exempting nearly 8 million workers from overtime wages, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) yesterday introduced legislation to block its implementation. “[Bush’s proposal] is anti-work and antifamily,” Harkin charged. “Workers could be forced to work longer hours-time that is taken away from their families-without pay,” the Associated Press reported.
While the proposed change secures overtime pay for 1.3 million more low-wage workers by raising the salary limit from $8,060 to $22,100 per year, it reclassifies millions of white-collar workers “holding a position of responsibility” in various industries-including aerospace, defense, health care, police, hospital, retail, journalism, and high tech-exempting them from time-and-a-half overtime wages (beyond the normal 40 hour work week). In addition, employers are granted complete discretion to work these employees almost unlimited hours with lost income and reduced flexibility. The Harkin-Kennedy bill does not oppose expanding overtime pay to include more low-income workers; however, the provision aims to safeguard employees currently qualifying for overtime pay.
The DOL’s final plan is expected later this year, according to the Associated Press. Groups including NOW and the AFL-CIO say they will continue to oppose proposals that are harmful to millions of working families. Join the Feminist Majority