The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 45           December 22, 2003  
U.S. Congress passes change in overtime pay rules
U.S. Congress cleared the way November 21 for a bill that includes a Bush administration proposal to change rules protecting overtime work compensation.

The new rules were introduced as part of a 2004 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill. They allow the Department of Labor to redefine a section of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act that determines who must be paid a time-and-a-half hourly rate for working more than 40 hours per week.

The Bush administration promoted the new rules as an attempt to “simplify and update” work rules, which big-business groups claim only favor already “well-compensated” and highly skilled professionals.

Workers now cannot get overtime pay if they earn more than $155 a week, or $8,060 a year—the level set in 1975—and meet other convoluted job criteria such as spending at least 80 percent of their time “exercising discretion” and other “intellectual” tasks that can not be “standardized in…a given period of time.”

Under the new regulations, employees making more than $22,100 a year could be denied overtime pay if their jobs are reclassified as professional or administrative, or who have supervisory or management-related responsibilities. Under the change, assistant managers of stores, restaurants or bars, for example, would get overtime pay despite their management status if they earn less than $22,100 per year. At the same time, a broader range of professional or administrative personnel making more than this amount would be denied time-and-a-half.

According to the AFL-CIO web site, the number of workers who will lose overtime pay is nearly 8 million, far greater than the 644,000 the Bush administration claims the bill would affect.

Seeking to erode further the 40-hour workweek, capitalist politicians in Washington are also pursuing revisions to replace time-and-a-half pay with comp time, and to allow the bosses to pay overtime only after 80 hours over a two-week work period. Under federal rules already in place for many nonagricultural jobs and industries, overtime is paid only after 40 hours per week, rather than after eight hours per day.  
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