Student government resolution targets campus smoking policy

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Firefighters. Journalists. Retail workers. Registered nurses. Dental technicians.

No overtime will be available for these workers if the U.S. Department of Labor and the Bush administration get their way.


The U.S. Senate stopped legislation from going any further last week with a vote of 54-45, citing disapproval of lost overtime benefits for white-collar workers.

As of 1999, 80 percent of the nation’s 120 million wage and salary workers were guaranteed overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to the DOL.

The administration said only 800,000 people would lose their right to overtime pay, but Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, estimated the number could reach 8 million.

The act requires employers to pay workers time and a half for each hour worked over 40 hours within a week.

Under current law, “salary-level” tests state anyone who makes less than $155 a week is eligible for overtime. The proposed changes, which are the first of their kind, would make anyone with a $455 weekly income eligible for overtime.

Durbin said this is the first time any administration has attempted to place restrictions on overtime benefits since the government established the law in 1938.

“That [increase in income eligibility] was the part of it that was good,” Durbin said. “It was just an expansion of the overtime benefits. If it would have just stayed with that, I don’t think there ever would have been a controversy, and Congress would have readily supported the legislation.”


While the number of people who would be eligible for overtime because they make less than $22,000 is increasing, white-collar workers who make more than $65,000 may not be able to get paid time and a half for overtime hours anymore.

“The restriction would have left 8 million Americans ineligible for overtime benefits,” Durbin said. “It would have included firefighters who did not have collective bargaining, nurses and many other people who I think, frankly, should be given a chance for overtime when they work beyond 40 hours a week.”

The proposed changes would also change how administrative and professional employees are defined.

Professional employees are ineligible to receive overtime if their primary duty is considered non-manual work that requires advanced knowledge in the scientific field, or if learning has been acquired through a college degree.

Paul Simon, director of the Public Policy Institute and former U.S. Senator, said he thought the Senate made the right decision in voting against the legislation.

“I think the requirement that we pay people for overtime work discourages too many work hours by people so they can be with their families,” said Simon. “The second thing it encourages is that if they are going to have to pay someone time and a half, you may employ someone else rather than paying the time and a half so that it creates more jobs. We are in a situation in our economy where we need the jobs right now.”

Durbin said the Senate vote was a significant and bi-partisan move toward the right direction.

“I think this is a clear message to the Bush administration that the overtime change was unreasonable,” Durbin said. “Americans should not be denied overtime,” Durbin said.

Reporter Amber Ellis can be reached at [email protected]