by Greg Palast

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
it's little gifts to major campaign donors, 2.7 million workers will lose
their overtime pay -- for a "benefit" of $1.53 billion. I put "benefit" in
quotes because, in the official cost-benefit analysis issued by Bush's Labor
Department, 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
professionals" 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
> 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
Labor Department 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
costs: . (4) converting salaried employees' basis of pay to an hourly rate
that result 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
hint, Madame Chao repeats, ".The fourth choice above results in virtually no
(or 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
he'll be golfing on the Labor Day weekend. Under Chao's rules, he need not
worry if he wants to replay that hole. "Exempt professionals" who cannot
earn overtime - once defined as doctors, lawyers and those with specialized
college degrees - will now include anyone who provides skilled advice . like
caddies ("You might try the other end of the club, Mr. President").
> 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
president, unemployment hit a generational high of over 9 million Americans.
Bill Clinton, through education and hard work, put more than 3 million of
those citizens back on the job.
> Now Bush Junior, repeating his family pattern of joblessness, has presided
over the return of unemployment for 9 million Americans.
> This was not unexpected, sociologists warn us. Hard core unemployment,
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
when the nut falls on its head.