This week the US House passed legislation to strike down advances made by unions and workers for decades. Through collective bargaining workers have made significant advances in the areas of time off and overtime pay. The US House, led by their Tea Party Speaker John Boehner, want to take that away.
On Wednesday May 8th, the US House passed HR 1406. The aptly named ‘Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013‘ or aka the ‘Work More for Less Pay Act’. The bill would effectively allow employers to pay workers in compensatory time off in lieu of overtime. The proponents of the bill say this would allow workers the ability to bank time gained by working overtime to be used at a later date.
Rep Martha Roby (R-AL) introduced the bill by stating:
“Talk to just about any working mom and dad and they’ll tell you they need more time. They need just one more hour in the day to be able to take care of responsibilities and make life work. We can’t legislate another hour in the day, but we can help working Americans better balance their time by removing unnecessary federal restrictions on comp time in the private sector.”
I would beg to differ on this. One of the reasons that people do not have enough time in the day is because their level of productivity is continually to being pushed higher and higher. Now with the invention of smartphones workers are spending more and more of their ‘free time’ to answer phone calls and emails. CBS News in Chicago highlighted a case in court right now that would force employers to pay workers for time spent answering emails and phone calls after hours. However that is a completely different story.
HR 1406 is said to give freedom to the worker, in reality it saves the employer money by not having to pay out mandatory time and a half overtime rates. The bill also does not guarantee the employee the right to take time off when they actually need it.
A senior economist for the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes, “Its major effect would be to hamstring workers — likely increasing overtime hours for those who don’t want them and cutting pay for those who do.” (TNDP.ORG)
NH Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) opposes this legislation in part due to the lack of language allowing the employee to use the time for personal appointments.
“Giving up overtime pay is a big deal for workers, and in return they aren’t even guaranteed they’ll get to use their comp time when they really need it,” Shea-Porter said. “This is not flexibility for workers. It’s less pay for workers. I urge Speaker Boehner to bring bills to the floor that actually help middle class families by creating jobs and ending sequestration.”
In fact, Congresswoman Shea-Porter offered an amendment to HR 1406, that was crushed by the GOP, that would not allow employers to deny workers from using ‘comp time’ to attend:
- Attend a medical appointment
- Care for a sick child or family member
- For veterans, to attend counseling or rehabilitation appointments for injuries suffered in combat.
On the floor of the House Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) said “this is one of the saddest days this House of Representatives has ever seen“.
Working families are struggling to pay their bills. Too many are living paycheck to paycheck, and now they want to steal more money out of their paychecks. For some people overtime pay is what is keeping their heads above water, and this would push millions of working families into a deeper hole.
I applaud all the Representatives who opposed this legislation in the House. These Reps are the ones who are standing up for struggling working families. These Reps truly understand the harm that legislation like this would have on all working families. I hope that the Senate will send this bill to where it truly belongs, the trash.