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2003-09-05

Up To 8 Million Americans Could Lose Overtime Pay Under New GOP Plan

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We host a debate on overtime regulations with AFL-CIO’s Karen Nussbaum and Michael Eastman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and we take a look at a plan to create a new association for people not currently represented by unions.

The Department of Labor is proposing changes to existing overtime rules.

The most significant changes would enable employers to reclassify many workers, currently eligible for time-and-a-half overtime, as managers, administrative or professional employees making them exempt.

Critics say the new regulations will adversely affect millions of mostly white-collar office and health-care workers. Proponents of the rule say clarifying rules will alleviate confusion on who qualifies for overtime pay, and reduce the growing number of overtime lawsuits filed by workers.

However, political pressure is mounting against the proposed change. A key Democrat said he believes he has lined up enough votes to win Senate passage of his measure to block the changes.

The Senate may vote early next week on an amendment by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin to the Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill.

A study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that as many as 8 million workers could lose overtime pay.

The Labor Department disputes that study and says about 650,000 white-collar workers could lose overtime but that 1.3 million low-income workers such as assistant store managers would become eligible.

The new rules were proposed March 27 by the Bush administration. This summer the Labor Department was flooded with a deluge of 78,000 pieces of mail and e-mails sent during a 90-day public comment period. The overwhelming majority of responses appear to oppose the changes.

  • Karen Nussbaum, assistant to the president of The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the nation’s biggest labor group, known as the AFL-CIO.
  • Michael Eastman, director of Labor Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which says the proposed overtime rule changes are long overdue.

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