Democrats & Liberals Archives

Bush attacks 65 year old American Standard of Living

The people who benefited from the Fair Labor Standards Act, the law that introduced the 40-hour work week and overtime pay, have all retired now. After all, the law was signed sixty-five years ago on the heels of the Great Depression. If they are lucky, the folks who fought to get this law passed are spinning in their graves, otherwise they are alive to live through that Bush is doing to the 40 hour week for millions of Americans.

If you are not familiar with what Bush’s plans for 40 hour weeks and overtime pay, here’s the basics: he wants to re-classify millions of Americans as being exempt from overtime pay. All those long hours after 40 will no longer receive time-and-a-half; instead you’ll get the same pay across the board. According to this article:

The move [Bush’s plans to change the classification for overtime] could have a major impact on up to 8 million employees who work jobs such as police sergeants, assistant restaurant managers, supervisory firefighters and licensed practical nurses.

Aren’t those the same folks who were first responders to the WTC attack?

It is terrible timing to introduce these changes to the law, being that yesterday was Labor Day in the US - a day to celebrate what workers mean to America. Instead of celebrating the 5.7% productivity increase of the American work force (the historical average is 2 percent), the Bush White House wants to strip millions of their right to a life outside the office, factory or hospital. And how did we achieve this historic productivity increase? According to a Management Consultant quoted in the Wall Street Journal;

"Employers are saying if I can't raise prices, I'll raise productivity. Employers are flogging their workers to get more out of them as a means to increase profits."

The International Labor Organization also finds an increase in US worker productivity, but they relate it to longer hours and not any of Bush's policies.

"The study says the United States is about twice as productive as the European Union and Japan. But it attributes part of the difference in per worker output to the fact that Americans work longer hours than their European counterparts. When measured on an hourly basis, the ILO finds European workers to be more productive."

There is a good side to the law though, any employee making less than $425 a week, or about $10.63 and hour, will be guaranteed overtime pay. The lucky thing for those workers making less than $10.63 and hour is that they're about to get a raise to $10.65 an hour.

By not requiring employers to pay overtime, the Bush administration is removing some of the incentives that employers have to hire more workers. Why would a company hire another worker when they can squeeze an extra ten hours out of their existing workforce at a lower price? This will have an effect on the already high unemployment rate, but Bush doesn't seem to care. If he did care then why is he supporting legislation to reduce health care benefits for 8 million workers by exempting health plans from state regulation and allowing such mandated coverage as mammography and well-child care to be dropped? Why does Bush refuse to support proposals to increase the minimum wage, which will soon be at its lowest real value in 50 years.

The Democratic Presidential candidates have some strong comments about Bush policies on labor. This article on GOP USA does an excellent job providing quotes from the leading Democratic candidates including:

"This has been one of the most anti-labor administrations in America's history; President Bush has rolled back ergonomics standards, tried to eliminate the right to overtime pay, and enacted an economic plan that has forced states and local governments to raise taxes, hurting working families across America." - Howard Dean
"Working Americans are in the crosshairs of President Bush's policies that have demonstrated a craven indifference to the very people whose work we celebrate on Labor Day. The Bush administration continues its slash and burn campaign to hinder workers' rights to organize and form unions." - Dick Gephardt
"Sadly, for far too many Americans, there is nothing special about not working today [Labor Day], because they will not work tomorrow or any day after for the foreseeable future. For these three million Americans, President Bush and his economic policies have been a dismal failure and they deserve better." - Bob Graham

So, here we are one day after Labor Day and one of the cornerstones of the American way of life for an estimated 8 million workers is about to be erased. An additional 9.1 million Americans find themselves without a job on Labor Day and for those entering the job market... good luck. Eighty-one percent of Americans feel that now is not the time to be looking for work. When workers complain of long hours, Bush talks of increased productivity and cuts their overtime benefits. I hope you had a job to celebrate this Labor Day.

Posted by Lefty at September 2, 2003 11:15 AM