September 8, 2004
Since the Department of Labor (DOL) began its attack on overtime pay rights in March 2003, few executive actions have drawn such a sustained national outcry for a legislative remedy. This week and next, you are likely to have two chances to do the right thing for American workers. On behalf of the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, its 25 constituent national unions, and the four million professional and other white-collar employees whom those unions represent, I ask that you votefor:
1) the Obey Amendment to the 2005 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, and
2) a motion to instruct the House conferees on the FSC/ETI legislation to accept the Harkin Amendment that a bipartisan majority of the Senate passed on May 4, 2004.
The DOL regulations became final on August 23, 2004. According to a rigorous analysis by three former DOL officials who enforced the Fair Labor Standards Act starting in the Reagan Administration, the regulations recast eligibility for overtime pay protections in ways that with one exception, reward employers and special interests at the expense of employees and families. The one exception is an increase in the pay floor beneath which employees must receive overtime pay for working more than 40 hours in a week to $23,660. Neither the Obey nor the Harkin amendments will disturb that one improvement.
On the other hand, both the Obey and the Harkin amendments will keep overtime pay protections for more than 6 million U.S. employees who, according to a July 2004 study by the Economic Policy Institute, will otherwise lose them. The Obey Amendment preserves the increase in the pay floor but, as interpreted by the Congressional Research Service, requires DOL otherwise to enforce the regulations that were in effect until August 23. The Harkin Amendment does the same.
American employees face offshoring, unemployment, stagnant wages, and a weak economic recovery that has brought substantial corporate profit but few new jobs. This is not the time to cut overtime pay, which for the workers who receive it, may account for 25 percent of their income. Please join the bipartisan majorities that have repeatedly defended the 40-hour week, pay for those who must work more than that, and the only incentive that employers have to spread employment rather than exploit the already employed. Please vote for the Obey and Harkin amendments.
Paul E. Almeida