A bill which finally made it through the House this week provides yet another example of how Democrats (and the unions which essentially own them) can find a reason to oppose anything which actually helps workers. The bill is designed to allow hourly workers who are eligible for time and a half pay for overtime the option of either taking the extra pay or banking paid time off for later use. (Washington Post)
On Tuesday afternoon, the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill that Republicans have promoted since the Newt Gingrich era, one that would allow private-sector employees to exchange overtime pay for “compensatory time” off, electing to accrue extra hours off rather than extra pay in their wallets. The bill passed 229 to 197, largely along party lines.
The bill — which supporters say would add flexibility to hourly workers’ schedules while opponents worry it doesn’t do enough to protect employees — is not a new idea. It seeks to take a similar provision that has been available to government workers since 1985 and extend it to private-sector employees, making it legal for them to choose between an hour and a half of paid comp time and time-and-a-half pay when they work additional hours.
It’s pretty straight forward, really. This doesn’t mandate anything and employers aren’t even forced to do it. It’s just an option which they currently can’t offer in some cases (though federal government workers are exempt and have had this option for decades). And if they do choose to offer it, the choice remains in the employee’s hands. So who could oppose such a measure? Pretty much every Democrat in the House. And the reason they give is a doozy.
Though the bill includes language that bans employers from “directly or indirectly intimidating, threatening, or coercing or attempting to intimidate, threaten, or coerce an employee” to choose comp time over pay, many Democrats and advocates for workers say they are concerned that people will feel pressure to opt for the comp time and may not have the resources to seek legal help if they are coerced.
“Under current law, if an employee wants to work overtime, put the money in the bank where it can earn interest and use it to cover the cost of taking some time off later with the permission of the employer, he can do that today — without this bill,” said Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, on the House floor Tuesday.
This excuse is pretty much the definition of “lame.” The bill specifically forbids employers from even suggesting that they would “rather” have employees take comp time if they prefer to take the money and they can be hauled into court if employees report that they are exerting such coercion. And Bobby Scott’s defense is even weaker. He’s claiming that the workers can “simply” take their time and a half pay, put it in the bank and use it to cover unpaid time off at a later date. When is the last time any of these Democrats actually worked an hourly wage job out in the real world? Try going in an just “telling” your boss that you’ll be taking Friday off when you don’t have any vacation time coming and not to worry because you’ve saved up enough money to cover it. You may find yourself with a lot more free time after you screw up the company’s schedule.
Conversely, when the employer offers the option and banks that time for you, the option to actually take the time off is far easier to negotiate. And you’re earning an hour and a half of time off for every extra hour you work. It’s a wash in terms of cost to both the employer and the employee.
The real reason the Democrats don’t like this bill is that the unions don’t like it. They don’t give a fig about getting more options for their members. They want to maximize the dues they extract from them and anyone who opts for a smaller paycheck in exchange for some flex time is cutting into their coffers. Less money in dues equals less money to buy the votes of Democrats. Hence the vote you saw on this bill. It’s time for the Senate to pass this measure and put it on Trump’s desk. Most Americans actually like having flexibility in managing their pay and compensated time off. Perhaps more of us should be asking these representatives why they don’t want us to have it.