Thursday, August 21, 2003

No More Overtime Rights: Try it, You'll Like It.

An AP article about the Bush administration's proposed overhaul of (take-away-our) overtime regulations is almost funny -- in a sick sort of way. The proposal would allow employers to take away overtime for millions of mostly white-collar workers.

What's so "funny?"
The Bush administration maintains that the new rules will merely give companies the option to cut overtime pay for certain workers. Many employers may choose to continue paying for work above 40 hours a week for other reasons, a Labor Department official said.

"Employers often want to retain the best employees to remain competitive," said Victoria Lipnic, an assistant Labor secretary. "So, just as the employers pay these employees well above minimum wage and provide many employee benefits ... they can choose to continue to pay them overtime."
Yeah, and they'll want to pay you more and give you health insurance and good pensions, and probably want you to join unions as well. Next thing, they'll pass a law "merely" giving companies the "option" not to provide a safe workplace. They can still choose not to kill their employees. And if the employer doesn't choose to pay overtime or minimum wage or provide a safe workplace, the employees can always walk right out the door and find a better paying, safer job. Right?

And then there's this:
The proposed rule changes also could eliminate overtime pay in a wide array of other occupations - from nurses to cooks to retail managers - if they are deemed to be "learned professionals" in the fields.
Now I'm sure many people would be happy to be considered "learned professionals" if it didn't mean getting paid less. Is this any way to encourage people to get more education and training?

This is so stupid, I'm (almost) at a total loss for words:
The rules do not offer workers exempt from overtime pay any guarantees of a 40-hour work week, said Alexander Colvin, an assistant professor of labor studies and industrial relations at Pennsylvania State University.

But Lipnic said they have other protections. For example, employees who do not qualify for overtime wages must be paid the same amount every week, even if they work less than 40 hours a week or the quality of their work is below standard.
So don't worry all of you nurses, corrections officers, and cooks. Even if you're working 60 hours a week and being paid for 40, you now have the theoretical "right" to work less and do a really bad job.

Vicky, Vicky, who are your press people? They're clearly working too many hours. One piece of advice. If Secretary Chao asks you to use these arguments to sell the new regs to an audience of actual workers, RUN LIKE HELL.

Take Back Your Time Day

But someone has a good idea: October 24 is Take Back Your Time Day. "TAKE BACK YOUR TIME DAY is a nationwide initiative to challenge the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine that now threatens our health, our families and relationships, our communities and our environment."

Noting that we work longer hours now than we did in the 1950s nearly nine full weeks (350 hours) LONGER per year than our peers in Western Europe do, Take Back Your Time Day argues that:
Overwork threatens our health. It leads to fatigue, accidents and injuries.

It reduces time for exercise and encourages consumption of calorie-laden fast foods. Job stress and burnout costs our economy more than $200 billion a year.

Overwork threatens our marriages, families and relationships as we find less time for each other, less time to care for our children and elders, less time to just hang out.

It weakens our communities. We have less time to know our neighbors, supervise our young people, and volunteer.

It reduces employment as fewer people are hired and then required to work longer hours, or are hired for poor part-time jobs without benefits.

It leaves many of us with little time to vote, much less be informed, active citizens.

It leaves us little time for ourselves, for self-development, or for
spiritual growth.

It leads to growing neglect and abuse of pets. (Not to speak of our children and elders)

So what's happening on October 24?
On Friday, October 24, 2003, thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans will JUST SAY NO to the overwork, over-scheduling and overstress that threaten to overwhelm our lives. They'll take the day or part of it off work, and join in hundreds of activities to initiate a much-needed national conversation about work/life balance and how we can reclaim it.

The date falls nine weeks before the end of the year, making the point that we Americans now work nine weeks more each year than Western Europeans do.
So go for it. But remember, as Vicky Lipnic would probably remind you, you can only take part of the day off if you don't have a right to earn overtime.