CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Opinion

May 15, 2013

COMMENTARY: Liberals Fulfilling Caricature in Flextime Fight

It didn't get a lot of attention. It happened the same day as hearings on the Benghazi attacks and the announcement of a verdict in the Jodi Arias trial. But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor took a modest step forward last week in his plan to broaden the Republican agenda beyond budget cuts.

In February, Cantor had given a speech titled "Making Life Work," in which he argued that the government should enact conservative policies that would make a difference in people's daily lives. As an example, he said the government ought to make it easier for employers to offer flextime to their workers.

On May 8, the House passed a bill to do just that. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, workers who get an hourly wage must be paid 50 percent more for overtime work. They can't take their compensation in the form of an equivalent amount of time off. The House bill, introduced by Alabama Republican Martha Roby, would make it possible for them to get an hour and a half off in the future in return for an hour of overtime today.

Karen DeLoach, a bookkeeper from Montgomery, Ala., testified before Congress last month that a flextime option would make it easier for her to help out her niece, who has special needs, and to go on mission trips overseas with her church. April is a busy time for her because of tax returns, and she would like to be able to bank hours then for these purposes.

Almost all House Democrats disagree with DeLoach, and voted against the flextime bill. They say it would erode the sacred principle of the 40-hour work week and let unscrupulous employers coerce workers into turning down overtime pay.

Republicans note that state employees have had the ability to substitute comp time for overtime pay since 1985 and say it's time for private-sector workers to have the same options. The Democratic retort is that private-sector workers are more vulnerable to their employers because they don't have civil- service protections and are less likely to be unionized.

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