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Omnibus Spending Bill Provisions Pt. I: New Overtime Laws To End Pay For Up To 8 Million Workers

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    A giant omnibus spending bill is expected pass in the Senate after being stalled in part because it contains a number of controversial items that deal little with the federal budget. The first of the three provisions we discuss is one that allows the Bush administration to rewrite the nation’s overtime laws.

    Democratic Senators have delayed the passage of the $373 billion omnibus spending bill Tuesday in part because it contains a number of controversial items that deal little with the federal budget.

    The bill–which was approved by the House in December–imposes policy items ranging from setting new media ownership limits to the handling of gun purchase records. Although the vote is a setback for Bush and leaders of the Republican-controlled Senate, it is clearly just a temporary one.

    The Washington Post reports that Democrats probably lack the votes to stall the bill much longer. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said the bill would pass in the next few days regardless of whether that issue and others were dealt with.

    Today we take a look at three of the policy items included in the bill.

    The first is a provision that would allow the Bush administration to rewrite the nation’s overtime laws. Unions say the plan could strip up to 8 million workers of overtime pay. The Labor Department claims that just 644,000 white-collar workers would be affected.

    Labor Secretary Elaine Chao says the current rules are outdated and confusing and employers are being subjected to 2 billion dollars in “needless litigation” annually because companies and their workers do not clearly understand their obligations and rights.

    Chao said the proposal would guarantee overtime pay protections for 1.3 million low-wage workers. The Associated Press recently reported that the Labor Department itself listed several ways employers could avoid paying overtime to those low-wage workers.

    • Mark Wilson, a Washington D.C. based attorney who specializes in overtime issues. He works for the Communications Workers of America and the International Union of Police Associations. He is a former government prosecutor with the National Labor Relations Board and he is the chairman of the DC Bar Committee on Labor and Health Standards.

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