|United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
|July 15, 2003|
The Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, urges your support for the Harkin amendment to the FY 2004 Labor/HHS Appropriations bill. This amendment would prevent the Department of Labor (DOL) from promulgating regulations that would end overtime pay protections for millions of professional, technical and other workers. It would not, as some have erroneously asserted, bar DOL from increasing the number of workers entitled to overtime pay.
At a time when the nation is reeling under the devastation of the ongoing recession, the regulations that DOL proposed on March 31, 2003 would inflict additional economic injury by removing millions of workers from all overtime safeguards. The regulations would hit professional and technical workers especially hard.
Under the proposed regulations, more than 8 million workers-according to an Economic Policy Institute study-would likely be forced to work longer hours at significantly less pay. DOL would lower the bar for reclassifying workers as professionals, executives, administrators, and computer employees who are ineligible for required overtime pay. Moreover, for the first time DOL raises in the proposed regulations the possibility that a worker with a high school diploma might become a “learned professional” not entitled to overtime pay “through a combination of work experience, training in the armed forces, attending a technical school, attending a community college or other intellectual instruction.” This possibility could easily double the number of workers in or entering the work force each year that would be classified as “learned professionals” and not entitled to overtime pay. These are but a few of the destructive consequences of this ill advised attack on America’s professionals.
Since March 2001, more than two million manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Deficits at the federal and state levels have compelled states to lay off workers and dismantle programs from which working families benefit. Unemployment stands at its highest levels in nearly a decade. The Federal Reserve Bank worries publicly about deflation.
Forcing millions of workers to work longer hours for less pay, while depriving others of the overtime pay on which their families depend, would be wrong and it would exacerbate an already precarious U.S. economy. It would be wrong for millions of hard-working Americans whose income will be significantly reduced. It would be wrong for their families who would see even less of these breadwinners because they will be forced to work even longer hours. It would be wrong for jobless workers who might otherwise be re-employed to do the work that, under the proposed regulations, employers will now demand from their current employees.
The Department for Professional Employees (DPE)-a coalition of 25 national unions representing 4 million people working in professional, technical and other highly skilled white-collar occupations, believes that these and millions of non-represented professionals will be irreparably damaged by the proposed DOL regulations. We hope you will vote for the Harkin amendment and thereby send a message to the DOL that this regulatory action should be withdrawn.
Thank you for your consideration.
Paul E. Almeida