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Bush, Congressional Republicans Kill Overtime Pay Protection

Few workers will be giving thanks to President George W. Bush this Thanksgiving holiday after his administration's veto threats effectively killed congressional efforts to protect the overtime pay rights of 6 million workers.

The overtime pay protections, which had been attached to both the Senate and House versions of a bill to fund the federal government in fiscal year 2005, would have blocked the Bush administration's changes to overtime pay eligibility rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which since its passage in 1938 has ensured millions of workers receive overtime pay. The overtime pay protection amendment was part of the fiscal year 2005 appropriations bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, which will be combined with eight other spending bills into an omnibus package Congress is expected to approve Nov. 19 or 20.

On Nov. 17, the Bush administration told Congress it would veto the entire $388 billion omnibus spending package if lawmakers insisted on protecting workers' overtime pay rights by including the overtime pay protection amendment. On Nov. 18, congressional Republicans eliminated the overtime pay protection amendment.

Congress has voted six times to block the Bush administration attack on workers’ overtime pay, but Bush veto threats and strong-arm, back-room maneuvers by Republican congressional leaders have killed those measures. The most recent vote to save overtime pay came Oct. 10 when the Senate approved freestanding legislation sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to restore workers overtime pay rights. The House, however, failed to consider the Senate-passed bill. Previously, the House voted to add overtime pay protections to the fiscal year 2005 spending bill on Sept. 9, and the same overtime pay protections were added to the Senate version on Sept. 15.

Bush Ignored Millions of Workers Who Protested Overtime CutsSince the Bush administration announced in March 2003 that it would change overtime pay eligibility rules under the FLSA to take away overtime pay rights, workers have sent more than 1.6 million e-mails, faxes and letters to protest the action.

Some of the 6 million workers who will lose their overtime pay protections likely voted for Bush in the recent presidential election, says Harkin. “This is what happens when you vote that way,” he said after President Bush's final veto threat killed his overtime pay protection amendment.

With congressional action uncertain next year, union activists in several states are expected to mount campaigns to win overtime pay protection laws on the state level.


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