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What They're Saying About H.R. 1406 — the "More Work, Less Pay Act"

It’s not about what you ate for breakfast: at its best, Twitter is a democratic news feed of sorts, serving up 140-character headlines written by whoever wants to write them, linking to longer, more informative articles written by journalists or citizens. Twitter feeds can subvert the story line supplied by the corporate-dominated news media. Last week, I wrote a pair of articles about H.R. 1406, a bill passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that would end overtime pay and instead allow corporate employers to push workers into longer hours at odder intervals for less pay. What are others saying about this bill (which now sits in the thankfully slow Senate)? The directs me to these articles:

From the Machinists News Network:

Proposed Bill Would End 40-Hour Work Week

Sponsored by Rep. Martha Roby (AL), the dubiously-titled “Working Families Flexibility Act” (H.R. 1406) would remove the requirement that employers pay a cash premium for overtime work and instead allow them to offer employees compensatory time off. The effect would be an FLSA that is undermined of its only incentive against excessive hours and a cheaper way for employers to demand mandatory overtime.

Eileen Appelbaum, a senior economist with the Center for Economic Policy and Research, says the bill’s major effect would be to hurt workers, “likely increasing overtime hours for those who don’t want them and cutting pay for those who do.”

A video produced by Democratic staff on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce

Patrick Corp’s Op-Ed in the Roanoke Times:

Scenario: Boss Bob comes to Mary and says, “I need you to work Sunday. Jane has to take her mom to the nursing home, but corporate has a no overtime rule right now, so it will have to be for comp time, that OK with you Mary?” How often do you really think Mary is going to say “no”?

So Mary keeps getting “asked” to work Sundays throughout the summer and into the holiday shopping season, for comp time of course. Mary, one day, says to Boss Bob, “I would like next Friday off for little Jimmy’s school play. I’ll use eight hours of comp time.”

Ah, but Boss Bob needs Mary because Jane finally quit, and there is a hiring freeze by corporate. He has an out. The law says an employee who has requested the use of such compensatory time shall be permitted by the employee’s employer (Boss Bob) to use such time within a reasonable period after making the request if the use of the compensatory time does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.

Boss Bob states they are swamped, and Mary has to work.

U.S. UnCut Virginia:

H.R. 1406 basically allows employers to roll time worked over 40 hours into “compensation time” instead of overtime it is a true end to the 40 hour work week.

Under Current law , hourly employees are paid 1 1/2 times the rate for hours worked more than 40 hours However, with H.R. 1406 , Employers can take all of those wages earned above 40 hours and put into a pot for future time off AT EMPLOYERS discretion.

In order to take a day off employees have to hope their employer allows them to work over , This takes away the incentive for employers to offer actual sick leave, It’s also possible Employers will cease hiring new employees when they can simply run a few ragged for 60 or 70 hours without having to pay them more than their base pay, this also amounts to a no-interest loan to employers from workers.

Dave Johnson for TruthOut:

The House will be voting on H.R. 1406, The Working Families Flexibility Act, which lets employers offer “comp time” instead of overtime pay. The problem is that employers will pressure workers to take comp time instead of overtime, which reduces paychecks and gets rid of the incentive to hire more people. Later, the employees will be pressured to not take that comp time, or will have to be “on call,” etcetera.

It is important to note that the law does not guarantee workers the right to actually use the comp time they get instead of extra pay. Employers can put it off forever. You can’t use this time when you want to, only when the employer decides it is okay.

Leo Gerard for the Campaign for America’s Future:

A century ago, workers were a lot more “flexible” than they are now. Veritable Gumbies in the mills and mines and factories they were, distorting their lives to slog 10 or 12 hours a day, six – even seven – days a week.

Then came the 40-hour week. And weekends. And eventually sick days. And paid vacation days. Now, bosses at mills and mines and factories regard these rules as coddling and consider the workers accustomed to them as unyielding to corporate demands.

The GOP has an app for that. It’s called the Working Families Flexibility Act. This legislation that the Republican majority in the U.S. House is expected to pass this week would force some old-time flexibility into 21st century workers. The forced flexibility act would award bosses the power to “offer” compensatory time off instead of overtime pay. Bosses, not workers, would determine when the comp time could be taken. The proposal puts control in corporate hands, obliging wage earners to bend over backward for bosses exactly like their Gumby ancestors were compelled to.

Trade unionists and labor rights activists died to achieve the goal of eight-hour days and 40-hour weeks. They were shot and beaten in the streets during demonstrations organized by the eight-hour movement. Their slogan was: “Eight hours for work; eight hours for rest; eight hours for what we will.”

1 comment to What They're Saying About H.R. 1406 — the "More Work, Less Pay Act"

  • Dave

    Jim, the Machinist’s News Network has it wrong. This bill will not “end the 40 hour work week,” neither will it be a “cheaper way for employers to demand … overtime.” The comp time bill would:
    – establish an option for private sector that is currently available for federal, state and municipal employees
    – pay each employee 1.5 hours of comp time for each hour of overtime worked
    – make allowances for collective bargaining agreements that may accept or reject the option
    – make any participation in the comp time agreement voluntary, not coerced
    – allow employer or employee to terminate agreement, employee receiving cash payment. (At 1.5 rate)
    This option is not cheaper for the employer, and can be beneficial for the employee. Labour (and industry) benefited immensely by congressional action in 1938, but the law as it was then was not chiseled into stone, a la Ten Commandments. Overtime pay as it was defined at the time was a good first step, but it was not the ONLY idea to be floated. I see this as a timely improvement on the scheme of things, and the best part is, it is a voluntary option, meaning the employee gives up nothing, and gains choices currently not available.

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