PRESIDENT BUSH: THE GRINCH THAT STOLE LABOR DAY
Friday, 29 August, 2003
> In celebration
of the working person's holiday, Secretary of Labor Elaine
Chao has announced
the Bush Administration's plan to end the 60-year-old law
which requires employers
to pay time-and-a-half for overtime.
> I'm sure you already knew
that -- if you happened to have run across page
15,576 of the Federal Register.
According to the Register, where the Bush Administration likes to place
little gifts to major campaign donors, 2.7 million workers will lose
overtime pay -- for a "benefit" of $1.53 billion. I put "benefit"
quotes because, in the official cost-benefit analysis issued by Bush's Labor
the amount employers will now be able to slice out of workers'
pockets is tallied
on the plus side of the rules change.
> Nevertheless, workers getting
their pay snipped shouldn't complain,
because they will all be receiving promotions.
These employees will be
re-classified as managers exempt from the law. The
change is promoted by the
National Council of Chain Restaurants. You've met
these 'managers' - they're
the ones in the beanies and aprons whose management
decisions are, "Hold the
lettuce on that."
> My favorite
of Chao's little amendments would re-classify as "exempt
anyone who learned their skill in the military. In other
words, thousands of
veterans will now lose overtime pay. I just can't
understand why Bush didn't
announce that one when he landed on the aircraft
NUMBER FOUR: BREAK THE LAW
> Now I should say that, according to Chao's
press office, the changes will
actually extend overtime benefits to 1.3 million
burger flippin' managers.
How does that square with the billion dollar "benefit"
to business owners?
Simple: The Chao hounds at the Labor Department suggest
that employers CUT
WAGES so that, with the new "overtime" pay, the
employees won't actually
take home a dime more.
> I can hear
the moaners and bleeding hearts saying, this sounds like the
is telling Big Business how to evade the law. Yep, that's
what the Department
is doing. Right there on page 15,576 of the Federal
Register it says,
"Affected employers would have four choices concerning potential payroll
. (4) converting salaried employees' basis of pay to an hourly rate
in virtually no changes to the total compensation paid those
And in case some employer is dense as a president and doesn't get the
Madame Chao repeats, ".The fourth choice above results in virtually no
only a minimal) increase in labor costs."
> For decades, the
courts have thrown the book at cheapskate bosses who
chisel workers out of
legal overtime by cutting base pay this way . but now
they'll have a new defense:
Bush made me do it.
> But then, there won't be any cases against
employers, because Chao is the
labor cop that is supposed to stop paycheck
theft. She's well qualified for
the job. Her resume reads, "Married to
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of
Kentucky." I called her press office
to ask if she qualifies for overtime,
but they'd left the office early.
And good news for our sporting President. Word from the White House is
be golfing on the Labor Day weekend. Under Chao's rules, he need not
if he wants to replay that hole. "Exempt professionals" who cannot
overtime - once defined as doctors, lawyers and those with specialized
degrees - will now include anyone who provides skilled advice . like
("You might try the other end of the club, Mr. President").
THE ACORN FALLS ONLY SO FAR
> Finally, on this Labor Day weekend, it's time
this nation took a cold look
at the issue of hard-core unemployment. Neo-conservatives
have warned us
about families that pass on joblessness from generation to generation.
Take, for example, the sad case of the Bush family. When Poppy Bush was
unemployment hit a generational high of over 9 million Americans.
through education and hard work, put more than 3 million of
back on the job.
> Now Bush Junior, repeating his family pattern
of joblessness, has presided
over the return of unemployment for 9 million
> This was not unexpected, sociologists warn us. Hard
through failed schooling and a don't-care attitude, takes
on a nearly
genetic character. The acorn falls only so far from the tree. Especially
the nut falls on its head.