Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:00 am, in From the USW International President
A century ago, workers were a lot more “flexible” than they are now. Veritable Gumbies in the mills and mines and factories they were, distorting their lives to slog 10 or 12 hours a day, six – even seven – days a week.
Then came the 40-hour week. And weekends. And eventually sick days. And paid vacation days. Now, bosses at mills and mines and factories regard these rules as coddling and consider the workers accustomed to them as unyielding to corporate demands.
The GOP has an app for that. It’s called the Working Families Flexibility Act. This legislation that the Republican majority in the U.S. House is expected to pass this week would force some old-time flexibility into 21st century workers. The forced flexibility act would award bosses the power to “offer” compensatory time off instead of overtime pay. Bosses, not workers, would determine when the comp time could be taken. The proposal puts control in corporate hands, obliging wage earners to bend over backward for bosses exactly like their Gumby ancestors were compelled to.
Trade unionists and labor rights activists died to achieve the goal of eight-hour days and 40-hour weeks. They were shot and beaten in the streets during demonstrations organized by the eight-hour movement. Their slogan was: “Eight hours for work; eight hours for rest; eight hours for what we will.”
Finally, in 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as part of the New Deal, which gave workers and families rights and security that previously had been exclusive to the wealthy.
FLSA enforces the 40-hour week with a simple measure. It requires employers to pay time and a half to wage earners for each hour worked beyond 40 in a week. That creates a financial disincentive for bosses to order work beyond 40 hours. That also creates a financial incentive for companies to avoid overtime pay by hiring more workers. That was a significant bonus during the Great Depression. (more…)