The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 created the minimum wage and outlawed child labor in America, and also introduced the eight-hour work day and the 40-hour work week. Inspired by a massive backlash against the irresponsible business practices that caused the Great Depression, it overhauled work conditions in American industry and boosted household revenues, supporting a prosperous middle class over the ensuing 75 years.
The “overtime” portion of the law doesn’t prohibit employers from demanding that employees work more than 40 hours a week. Instead, employers must pay extra to overworked employees, or else hire additional workers to increase production. Plus, it rewards employees who DO work longer. So it creates more jobs, and injects more money into the economy in the form of higher overtime pay. Either way, extraordinary workloads are rewarded with an increase in wages.
Even WITH the legal requirement of overtime pay, Americans STILL work more hours than almost any other industrialized country in the world. It’s what we do— we’re just kooky like that.
Well, right now a group of Congressmen is working to change all that by introducing a bill allowing employers to side-step paying overtime, substituting it with “comp time” instead.
What is “comp time”? It’s bullshit, that’s what. It forces workers to work beyond the accepted 40 hour work week with no commensurate raise in pay. Instead, for each extra hour an employee works, he or she is awarded a “comp hour”— a future paid “vacation hour” which can supposedly be taken off sometime down the road. Not too bad, right? Wrong.
If Washington passes H.R. 1406— the ironically-named “Cantor/Roby Working Families Flexibility Act”— predatory employers will immediately start pressuring their workers to eschew overtime for comp time. Paychecks will drop; plus, suddenly there’s no need for a business to hire extra workers if production can be increased just by keeping the doors open for more hours. Hours worked by wage slaves for no special reward other than the angry pukey feeling that comes from grudging acquiescence to corporate exploitation.
Here’s the REAL slap in the face: H.R. 1406 does nothing to guarantee workers the right to actually USE such comp time when they get it. Instead, the bill lets any employer who receives a request for comp time decide WHEN (if ever) the employee gets to take it… plus the employer can even REFUSE the request if, in the employer’s view, letting the employee take comp time will “unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.”
Unscrupulous bosses have long dodged paying overtime by saddling workers with locked salaries and labeling them “managers” on the payroll records. That’s the oldest trick in the book. Recent business reports reveal that American productivity is on the rise— but NOT from the creation of more jobs. Rather, companies are more productive because they work longer hours. Take away overtime, and believe me, the universal 12-hour workday will return with a vengeance.
The framers of this law claim it would “allow families more flexibility in planning time off from work.” But that is a blatant smokescreen to mask the real reason for the law— to erode the foundations of the 1938 FLSA. The truth is simply this: there are big players in corporate America who would really rather not pay hourly employees overtime for extra hours worked, and who are trying to pass this ridiculously-named bill into law so they can work their employees to exhaustion while still paying them peanuts.
Somebody dust that bill for fingerprints: I bet it’s printed under a Walmart letterhead.