Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Overtime Out

I wrote the other day about Americans’ vanishing vacations. Well, the Bush administration obviously figures if you can’t go on vacation, you might as well be working more for less.

But it seems there are a few people out there who are upset about making less money next year in order to make life better 9and more profitable) for American business. The U.S. Labor Department has been flooded with over 80,000 letters from irate workers around the country whose living conditions depend on the overtime they earn.

One typical letter:
"Shame on you, President Bush," Patrick L. Crane, 47, a prison guard from Highland, Ill., wrote to the Labor Department in early June. ". . . I would not appreciate being mandated to work extra hours in a prison and become injured or killed for working exhausted."
And what is he wasting his overtime pay on?
Crane said he has used his time-and-a-half pay to replace his car's broken transmission; help care for his mother, who has dementia; and pay medical bills for his brain cancer treatments.
The AFL-CIO and the Economic Policy Institute estimate that over 8 million workers will lose overtime under the new regulations while the Labor Department claims that the number is only around 644,000. Democrats in Congress have been trying to stop the new regulations, so far unsuccessfully.

The Labor Department claims not to be surprised at the response.
Victoria A. Lipnic, assistant labor secretary for employment standards, said department officials were not taken aback by the heavy volume of comments, in part because Internet filing makes it easier for people to air their opinions. "It's not surprising when you propose a change to something that has been in place for 54 years," Lipnic said.”
Today overtime and the 40 hour work-week, tomorrow Social Security, Medicare and the right to organize unions. We clearly need to get rid of all of those old, tired laws. This is the 21st century, after all.

Solution: Deep Breathing

As you may imagine, all of this overtime, in addition to downsizing, fear of layoffs, and rising unemployment levels are taking their toll on us poor humans. According to USA Today,
The rise in stress — driven by mounting unemployment, leaner workplaces and a jobless recovery — could pose a bottom-line threat to companies as workers suffer more mental and physical health problems related to job pressure, experts say.
Chicago-based employee assistance provider ComPsych experienced a 23% increase in crisis- and stress-counseling requests from client companies in the first quarter of 2003 compared with the first quarter of 2002. Nearly 30% were because of worker anxiety and terminations.

Nearly 35% of workers say they've seen an increase in anxiety and stress-related physical ailments in their workplace in the last year, according to a May survey by The Marlin Co., a North Haven, Conn.-based workplace communications firm. Twenty-seven percent report a rise in emotional problems such as insomnia and depression.
So how can employers deal with these problems: Maybe higher staffing levels or more job security? How about better working conditions and longer vacations? Nah!
At AstraZeneca, a Wilmington, Del.-based pharmaceutical company, a form of meditation called Qi Gong has been introduced. Classes take place at regular department meetings, including a pre-meeting meditation and — instead of a coffee break — there is an afternoon energy break with Qi Gong and tea.
Well that’s progressive of them. No? No.
One reason for the attention: Human-resources experts say employees exposed to stresses such as layoffs are more likely to engage in violent behavior.
Maybe they should just replace the meditation with medication. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Free Prozac.