Less than three months after it approved President Bush’s proposed Department of Labor (DOL) rule change that would exempt nearly 8 million from overtime wages, the US House last week reversed its position, voting 221 to 203 against the measure. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), one of seven Republicans who changed votes from the July roll call, explained, “I just had to represent the concerns of my district,” reported the Washington Post. In his district alone, an estimated 10,000 white-collar employees would be forced to renegotiate contracts, he said.
The proposed DOL change secures overtime pay for 1.3 million more low-wage workers by raising the annual salary limit from $8,060 to $22,100; however, it reclassifies millions of white-collar workers “holding a position of responsibility” in various industries-including aerospace, defense, health care, police, hospital, retail, 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. Opposition groups including were pleased with the significance of the House vote. “I think the willingness of their troops to give blind loyalty to their leadership is a little bit modified,” Rep. David R. Obey (D-WI) said, suggesting a decline in support for Bush, the New York Times reported. The House-Senate conference committee will next consider whether to include the provision in the Labor-Health and Human Services spending bill.