One Day Left to Oppose the Biggest Pay Cut in History
We're down to the wire -- and your voice matters.
This Tuesday, September 9, 2003, the U.S. Senate will vote on whether to stop what could be the biggest pay cut in U.S. history.
On March 31, 2003, the Bush Department of Labor (DOL) issued proposed regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA). The FLSA established the norm of a 40-hour work week. If you work more than 40 hours a week, you should receive pay at time-and-a-half for the extra hours.
Congress passed the FLSA to urge employers to spread work around and not to exploit the workers they have. But it did not extend the right to overtime pay to professionals, executives, and administrators, on the theory they can take care of themselves.
The proposed DOL regulations would enlarge the exceptions to swallow the rule. According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, if the regulations become final, they will end a right to overtime pay for more than 8 million American workers.
Here's one example of how the proposed regulations would work: To be excluded from overtime pay protections as a professional now, a worker has to have an advanced degree in a science or other area of learning where advanced degrees are a prerequisite: medicine, law, engineering, and so on. Under the proposed regulations, a worker would need only a high school diploma, plus "a combination of job experience, military training, attending a technical school or attending community college."
In other words, millions of workers who graduated from high school may find themselves with the glorious and honorable title of "professional" -- which will entitle them to be required to work longer hours for less pay.
Senators Harkin and Kennedy want to stop the Bush DOL. The Harkin amendment would allow DOL to expand the universe of workers who are entitled to overtime pay, but not to exclude any worker who has overtime pay protection now.
The Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and other representatives of Big Business -- the same people who have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to elect George W. Bush -- are lobbying furiously to oppose the Harkin amendment. If working families are going to stand a chance in this fight, we're all going to have to make our voices heard...before the biggest pay cut in history makes a job-loss economy into a pay cut economy.
Your Senators can help by supporting the Harkin amendment. You can reach them at 1-877-331-2000 or 1-202-224-3121 or at their district offices. For continuing updates about the biggest proposed pay cut in history, check www.dpeaflcio.org.
Paul E. Almeida is the president of the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, which comprises 25 AFL-CIO unions representing four million people working in professional, technical and other highly skilled white collar occupations.