Working Overtime To Ruin Overtime Pay

By Gus Tyler

Published May 21, 2004, issue of May 21, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In America’s historic struggle to pull itself out of the Great Depression of the 1930s, one of the key pieces of legislation was the Fair Labor Standards Act, commonly called the Wage and Hour Law.

It set a minimum wage of 25 cents an hour — a ridiculously tiny sum by current standards, but a giant step up for workers who were being paid 5 and 6 cents an hour. The idea behind the law was to increase the buying power of those at the bottom of the economic totem pole with the expectation that a lift in their pay would help lift the economy by increasing the nation’s purchasing power to provide a greater market for our “market economy.”

The minimum wage was, however, only one half of the act. The other half pertained to working hours, and was a result of the argument, made by some observers, that technological advances had enabled one worker to turn out what once required two or three workers — causing massive unemployment. Indeed, some pointed an accusing finger at the “technocrats” as the culprits behind the Depression. The New Dealers reasoned that since workers had become able to produce more than in the past, there was no reason that so many workers should be sweating their lives away toiling 10 and 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

So the Fair Labor Standards Act set limits of eight hours a day and five days a week. But the law granted an exception to an employer who might have a rush order and a speedy delivery deadline. The law allowed the employer to have employees work longer hours, but it would have to compensate them at the rate of time-and-a-half for the overtime.

That law has been on the books for 66 years. It is so much a part of an accepted and acceptable system that no one has dared to challenge it — until the advent of the Bush regime. The first assault was a proposal that would allow an employer not to pay time-and-a-half, but instead give time off with straight pay. That would save money for the employer, but would cost workers the difference between straight-time pay and overtime pay.

And now comes a second assault based on a project proposed by the Labor Department. It would redefine what kind of work an employee did to determine which categories will be covered by the law and which will not. In this revision of eligibility, countless employees now covered by the law no longer will be covered.

When this proposal came before the Senate recently for legislative approval, the bill was killed when six Republican senators broke ranks and voted with the Democrats — against the wishes of the White House.

Many senators voted against the proposal not only to protect those who had been covered by the act in the past, but also because those losses in pay were also losses in buying power and a threat to the whole economy.






Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.