Tom Harkin will never stand by and watch any administration turn back the clock on American working families. When the Bush Administration broke with more than 60 years of bipartisan respect for the principle of overtime pay, he jumped into action. He became Congress’s leader in fighting the Administration’s rule allowing employers to reclassify workers and avoid paying overtime. Twice he has achieved a bipartisan majority vote in the Senate for his amendment protecting overtime.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 requires employers to pay employees time-and-a-half for overtime work. In March, 2003, the Bush Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a rule containing dozens of provisions that weaken overtime eligibility rules. An independent report by three former DOL officials who worked under Republican and Democratic administrations concluded that, except for a needed minimum salary-level adjustment, DOL weakened overtime protections and opened the rules up to increased litigation with every substantive change. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the result will be to strip overtime rights from up to 6 million workers, including those earning as little as $23,661 per year.
This damaging rule took effect on August 23. But the fight is not over.
Tom’s amendment to the Jumpstart Our Business Strength (JOBS) Act will be considered in that bill’s conference committee this fall. Tom is a member of the conference. He’ll fight to keep his amendment, allowing provisions of the final regulation that enhance overtime protection to stand, while reversing the Bush Administration action to end the 40-hour work week and overtime pay for those 6 million workers.
The 40-hour work week and overtime pay discourage employers from imposing excessive work hours on their employees. They help ensure that workers are fairly compensated. They encourage job creation. Overtime pay accounts for about 25 percent of total income for Americans who work overtime.
No wonder this Administration’s record on jobs is so poor! They take the wrong side. 1.8 million private sector jobs lost. 2.7 million manufacturing jobs lost. Stagnant wages. Rising health care and education costs. The largest budget deficits and debt in U.S. history. All under this President’s watch.
Tom Harkin called it "President Bush’s Anti-Labor Day" when the new overtime rule went into effect. He held a rally with hundreds of workers on the steps of DOL in Washington. To a chorus of applause, Tom promised: "We will not cease our active opposition to this new rule."