First On Senate's Agenda -
Bush's Plan To Kill Overtime


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Proposals by President George W. Bush that could end overtime protections for 8 million U.S. workers top the U.S. Senate's agenda this week.
Before Congress adjourned in August, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., introduced legislation (S. 1485) that would block the Bush-backed Labor Department proposal to gut the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime pay protections. The Harkin-Kennedy bill will be offered as an amendment to the fiscal year 2004 Labor, Health, Human Services and Education appropriations bill (H.R. 2660).
"Employers are hiring fewer workers here in the U.S. and working them longer -- and now the Bush administration is trying to make it cheaper for them to work employees even longer with its proposed changes to overtime rules," AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney said during a Labor Day press conference.
Although the Bush administration claims changes to the overtime rules would affect only 644,000 workers, the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found the number of workers who will lose overtime pay is closer to 8 million.
"The DOL recognizes that this conversion from hourly to salaried will occur, but it woefully underestimates how significant the change in the workforce will likely be," according to the EPI report.
Those who could lose overtime pay involve a wide range of workers, including nurses, firefighters, retail clerks and engineering technicians.
Under, the Bush proposal, workers who lose their overtime rights also could face unpredictable work schedules and reduced pay because of an increased demand for extra hours -- time for which employers would not have to compensate workers, according to EPI.
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.
After the Labor Department announced its plan to take away overtime pay in March, it received more than 80,000 comments by the close of the public comment period June 30 -- and acknowledges most are against the proposal.
During the August congressional recess, activists from local unions, central labor councils and state federations distributed worksite fliers about the overtime attack, encouraged workers to contact their lawmakers and made lobbying visits to congressional district offices.
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