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9/10/2004

House Votes to Protect Overtime Pay

House Votes to Protect Overtime Pay
Sept. 9—Working families scored a major victory today when the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment to restore overtime pay rights for some 6 million workers whose overtime pay was threatened by new Bush administration rules that became effective Aug. 23.

On a bipartisan vote of 223–193, the House passed an amendment introduced by Reps. David Obey (D-Wis.) and George Miller (D-Calif.) to the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill. The amendment would force the U.S. Department of Labor to rescind overtime pay eligibility changes to the Federal Labor Standards Act but let stand new inflation adjustment rules that will benefit some 384,000 low-income workers.

The fight to stop President George W. Bush’s overtime pay take-away is far from over, however. Bush has threatened to veto the appropriations bill, which includes funds for health care and education, if it contains the Obey–Miller amendment. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called on Bush to do the right thing and withdraw his veto threat.

“Today’s vote…sends a strong message to the White House: America’s workers, leaders and communities do not support his overtime pay cut, and President Bush should back off his threats to veto this important protection for workers’ overtime pay,” Sweeney says. “The ball is now in the president’s court. We will continue to keep up the pressure to translate today’s win into a larger victory in the battle to save overtime pay.”

The House has voted twice and the U.S. Senate three times to stop the administration from cutting workers’ paychecks. Workers sent more than 1.6 million letters, e-mails and faxes protesting the overtime pay cut after it was announced in March 2003.

The Senate is expected to mark up its version of the appropriations bill next week. In May, the Senate approved an amendment by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to the Foreign Sales Corporation (FSC) tax bill (S. 1637) to protect overtime pay. The Harkin amendment would repeal any provision of Bush’s new regulation that takes away workers’ right to overtime pay. House leaders had blocked several attempts to vote on a similar measure and refused Democratic requests to allow debate on the issue.

Speaking before a 1,000-strong rally outside the Labor Department in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 23, Harkin and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said congressional Democrats and a handful of Republican lawmakers will continue to push to stop the pay cut. The Washington, D.C., rally was among nationwide protests against the overtime pay take-away, with workers in Cleveland, Miami and St. Louis also distributing thousands of leaflets to passersby urging them to urge their lawmakers to turn back Bush’s overtime pay assault. In Cincinnati on Aug. 19, union members, community groups and others held town hall meetings to discuss the impact of the Bush pay cuts and strategize to defeat it.

More:
Read AFL-CIO President John Sweeney’s statement on the overtime pay vote.
Read the Economic Policy Institute’ report Longer Hours, Less Pay on the impact of the overtime rules.
Read a report by former Labor Department officials that confirming “large numbers of workers” will lose their overtime pay protections and the report’s executive summary.
Examine the myths and facts about the Bush overtime pay take-away.
Find out if you could lose your overtime pay under the Bush administration rules.
Ask a lawyer if your overtime pay is at risk.

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