Big Business Wins One Battle in War to Preserve Overtime Pay

July 11, 2003

By a narrow 213 to 210 vote on July 10th, the House of Representatives failed to derail the ongoing Republican plan to repeal overtime pay for as many as 8 million white collar, professional, and technical workers. House Democrats rallied to the defense of overtime pay by offering an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have blocked the Labor Department from unilaterally re-classifying potentially millions of workers as “exempt” from entitlement to overtime pay. And in a frustrating twist, while fourteen Republicans supported the amendment to preserve overtime pay, three Democrats provided the narrow margin of victory for big business. This battle in the war to protect overtime pay from the Bush Administration attack was led by Democrats, but also undermined by a mere handful of Democrats.

Now that Congress has failed to stop the administrative repeal of overtime pay, the Labor Department will be free to implement the new rules later this year. Despite the massive rank-and-file outpouring of support for the preservation of our current overtime pay regulations, the Bush Administration is determined to repeal overtime pay through the Labor Department ‘re-classification” scheme as well as by passing “comp-time” legislation. Congressional Republicans recently backed-off their attempt to pass the “comp-time” legislation, (see previous UE Political Action Update, “Republicans Cancel Vote to Repeal Overtime Pay: For Now”) lacking enough votes for passage. The failure of the current vote, however, will no doubt rekindle attempts to pass the “comp-time” bill.

Commenting on the vote, UE General Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Klipple said, “This battle is not over - not over by a long shot. We are going to protect overtime pay from the greedy politicians who want to repeal it. Millions of working people, and even some UE members are unaware that we are on the verge of losing the basic overtime pay protections that we have enjoyed for more almost 70 years. Reach out to these fellow workers immediately and activate them in defense of overtime pay.” Information on how to contact lawmakers is available in the earlier UE Political Action update mentioned in the previous paragraph.