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Jumpstart Our Business Strength (Jobs) Act-Continued

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Location: Washington, DC


JUMPSTART OUR BUSINESS STRENGTH (JOBS) ACT-CONTINUED

Mr. KENNEDY. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. DODD. I will be happy to yield to my colleague from Massachusetts.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I join the Senator in cosponsoring the Harkin amendment.

Is the Senator familiar with the fact that the Republican leadership has now done a parliamentary maneuver so there is absolutely no opportunity for this institution to act on the Harkin amendment dealing with overtime; that they have taken the rules of the Senate and are so unwilling to address the amendment of the Senator from Iowa that they have effectively foreclosed any opportunity for the Senate of the United States to act this afternoon, late afternoon, this evening, or at any time until after the cloture motion?

Can the Senator from Connecticut possibly tell us why the Republican leadership would want to deny the people's representatives in the Senate the opportunity to express their view on an issue that affects approximately 8 million workers in this country?

Mr. DODD. I thank the Senator. The Senator from Massachusetts has been a Member of this Chamber for a number of years, and I have been here for almost a quarter of a century. I say to my colleague from Massachusetts, I was born at night but not last night.

You can use the rules of this institution for various purposes. It seems clear to this Member that the reason the Republican leadership-a determined minority within the majority-is engaging in these parliamentary sorts of gymnastics is because they know the outcome. I suspect a strong majority of us would speak with a resounding voice in saying no, you shouldn't implement a rule that would prohibit hard-working Americans from collecting overtime pay. This is particularly troublesome at a time when so many are out of work and where two incomes in a family may be necessary to keep up with the mortgage payments, or to pay college tuition, or make car payments. We cannot deprive 8 million Americans who today have the right to collect overtime. The only reason the Republican leadership is prohibiting a vote is because they know the outcome-the amendment would pass.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, as the Senator remembers, we had a vote on this measure on September 10, 2003. To substantiate what the Senator has pointed out, they voted 54 to 45 in the Senate to retain overtime, and in the House of Representatives it was 221 to 203. This was a matter of 7 or 8 months ago when we had this body speak in a bipartisan way and the House of Representatives speak in a bipartisan way. Still we find the Republicans are denying the Senate an opportunity to express its will.

Does the Senator not agree with me that this is sending a message to every working family in this country that we have Republican opposition to the increase in the minimum wage, Republican opposition to extending the unemployment compensation, and Republican opposition to halting the proposal that will eliminate overtime for some 8 million Americans; that one can conclude this administration is not on the side of working families?

Mr. DODD. Again, I thank my colleague for his question. I don't know how you can draw any other conclusion than my colleague from Massachusetts has.

As I recall-again, my colleague has a wonderful sense of history, and I think my memory is not bad but correct me if I am wrong-during the Reagan administration, during the Bush administration, the President's father, extended unemployment benefits in those years when people were out of work. I think during both Republican and Democratic administrations, they said we ought to extend those unemployment benefits and raise the minimum wage. But in this administration's case, the answer is a resounding no. Not only do they not allow us to vote on those matters and extend those benefits as every administration has over time, but, of course, they are going a step further and proposing regulations.

Let me be clear so people understand. If you are among one of 250 current white-collar occupations, if you are a nurse, a firefighter, a police officer, emergency medical training personnel, health technician, clerical worker, surveyor, chef, if you are in those categories and many more, even though your work obligations don't change at all, it gives your employer the right to reclassify you as no longer someone who qualifies for overtime pay. Even though your work doesn't change, you will be deprived of overtime pay, no matter how many hours you work. I don't understand.

Mr. KENNEDY. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. DODD. I am happy to yield to my colleague.

Mr. KENNEDY. Will the Senator not agree with me that for the first time in the history of the overtime laws this administration has stated if individuals in the military-I am reading from their proposed regulation of March 31, 2003. They talk about training in the Armed Forces, stating if you are a member of the National Guard and are called up to go over to Iraq, you take a training program in order to try to provide greater protection and defense for the men and women in your unit, you come back here to the United States, you go back to your workplace, and you think you are entitled to overtime, under their proposal, make no mistake about it, you are excluded.

I draw the attention of the Senator to the comments of the very distinguished head of a veterans organization. The Senator has mentioned the categories of those who will be made ineligible for an increase in overtime. This is a letter to Secretary Chao from Thomas Corey, national president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, dated February 17, 2004:

[We] would like to make you aware that the proposed modification of the rules would give employers the ability to prohibit veterans from receiving overtime pay based on the training they received in the military. This legitimizes the already extensive problem of "vetism" or the discrimination against veterans.

There it is. That is what their proposal is all about. I don't blame the other side for not wanting to have a vote on it.

Has the Senator ever heard of such a time when we have American servicemen spread all over the world being called on-and the National Guard and Reserve-to get some training, and they come back and go back to work, and there comes the boss who says, Well, you have some training in the military, and you are out?

Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I had heard some reports about this. I had never seen this letter before, but I find it incredible.
Like many of my colleagues, I have attended various meetings with the families of guardsmen and reservists who have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq over the last number of months. I have also been at armories in my State as the men and women have come back from their service there. I have even visited with our troops in Iraq for a few days in December. I cannot believe that these men and women, many of whom have spent a year boots-on-the-ground overseas would be treated in this way. These men and women have already had to put their jobs and families on hold as they go over for a year-maybe getting back for a week or so. It is hard enough to do that, hard enough to be away, hard enough to go through the perils of serving in a war zone as these young men and women are doing. But I find it stunning to also be told because of the training they may receive in order to help us rebuild Iraq and defend their fellow men and women in the uniform, that the training they got now deprives them of getting as much as 25 percent of their income. I am told that as much as 25 percent of the earning power of an average worker in this country comes from overtime pay. People coming back who just served their country, who put their life on the line, and been away for a year, are now being told if they got job training over there, they will no longer be eligible for overtime pay. That is incredible.

Mr. KENNEDY. I draw the attention of the Senator to the comments from the National Association of Manufacturers.

The NAM applauds the department for including this alternative means of establishing that an employee has the knowledge required for the exception [from the overtime protections] to apply . . . For example, many people who come out of the mili- tary . . .

There it is again, the National Association of Manufacturers praising that part of the Bush proposal.

We are talking about those who are serving in the Armed Forces now, and we know 40 percent of the combat arms in Iraq are National Guard reserve units. We find out that those individuals who get that extra training, which is essential in order to help protect the lives of their fellow servicemen, are told when they come back home, too bad, you are not going to get your overtime pay.

I ask the Senator if this has been his experience. I have a chart, as well, regarding workers without overtime protections being more than twice as likely to work longer hours.

The point I have heard the Senator from Connecticut and the Senator from Illinois make is, if you do not have the protections, some think you will have to work a little bit longer, but it will not make much difference.

This chart from the Labor Department shows what happens in the two cases: where workers are paid time and a half for overtime and where they are not.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. VOINOVICH). The time of the Senator from Connecticut has expired.

Mr. KENNEDY. I had requested to be recognized following the Senator.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts is recognized under the previous order.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, this is on my time.

This chart shows if you do not have overtime protections, you are twice as likely to work more than 40 hours a week and three times as likely to work more than 50 hours a week.

Without overtime protections, hold onto your seat, employers will make you work twice as hard after hours.

Does the Senator agree with me that the Bush Administration is not only denying fair compensation on a proposal that has been in effect since the 1930s, but the message ought to go out to workers across this country they are going to work a great deal longer, a great deal harder because without the overtime protection, that is the record. They will be exploited in the workplace.

Mr. DODD. I thank my colleague for the question. I see our friend from Illinois, as well, so I will not take much time.

I am glad the Senator pointed this out. It reinforces the argument I mentioned a moment ago that according to Labor Department studies, this elimination of overtime pay for 250 job classifications will reduce the earning power of the average working family by 25 percent. What the Senator from Massachusetts is saying is not only will you have less pay, but you will have to work longer hours, as well.

I am glad the Senator referenced the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. We went through World War II, we went through Korea, Vietnam, through economic downturns, and no administration ever suggested the kind of changes in overtime pay this Bush administration is advocating today.

I urge, as my colleague from Massachusetts has, give us a chance to vote. Give this body a chance to express its will on whether we think during these times of economic hardship people ought to be able to get overtime pay.

If you are a nurse, clerical worker, firefighter, a reporter, a paralegal, dental hygienist, graphic artist, the list goes on, those are the job classifications in which you will be denied overtime pay. Your work remains the same, you do not get the extra pay, you work longer hours.

Let's vote on the Harkin amendment. Let's have an up-or-down vote to determine whether this body believes overtime pay ought to still be the practice in this country.

Mr. KENNEDY. I ask a final two questions of my friend from Connecticut.

When we are talking about police officers and nurses and firefighters, they are the categories we rely on for homeland security. They are the backbone of homeland security. Here we are in the Senate effectively saying to those workers, we are going to take away your overtime pay. The Republicans are saying that because they will not let us get a vote on it.
We have a lot of problems in this country, but I don't believe one of the problems is that we are paying our firefighters, our nurses, and our police officers who are on the front line of homeland security-I don't think the principal problem we have is we are paying them too much.

The Senator from Connecticut is the leader in this body with regard to children and children's issues. I have a chart that looks at the number of children hungry in this country. We are seeing an expansion of hunger in this country. We do not talk about it a great deal in this body, but it is a direct result of the fact working families are having a hard time making ends meet. They have not gotten an increase in the minimum wage, unemployment compensation has been denied, they are facing the threat of loss of overtime. We have 13 million hungry children. I ask the Senator, we have the other problem with 8 million unemployed, 8 million workers who will lose overtime, the low minimum wage for 7 million, 3 million more Americans are living in poverty because of the economic policies of the last 3 years, and 90,000 workers a week are losing their unemployment benefits. Regarding the impact of all these economic policies on children, I am wondering if the Senator would address this issue briefly. It is important when we are talking about these issues, we are not just talking about technical questions of overtime; we are talking about real people with real lives and people who are facing some very challenging times.

Mr. DODD. Mr. President, again I thank my colleague from Massachusetts. He has in a sense answered the question himself with these numbers. It is hard to believe, given the times, the hardship, 90,000 people a week are exhausting their unemployment insurance benefits.

We know of the pressures that exist on families already. We know how hard it is today economically. It is not an uncommon story to hear, whether you are in the home State of the Presiding Officer in Ohio, or Massachusetts, Illinois or Connecticut, to have families where two, three, and four jobs are held in order to make ends meet and how critically important it is to have that income coming in.

When we read about jobs being outsourced across the country, being shipped off to India and China, and the administration is saying that that is a good thing for the economy, when 2.6 million manufacturing jobs have been lost, many of which have left the country, we have to be concerned about the future of America's families. These are all pressure points on these families who are living on the margins. We are not talking about families who are necessarily in poverty but families who are struggling to provide for their basic needs, trying to prepare for children going on to college, seeing to it they get a good education, keeping them properly clothed, and in good health.

Forty-four million Americans do not have health care. The overwhelming majority of that 44 million are working people with two incomes. That is the average. Over 80 percent of the 44 million people without health care are working families.
Now you take up to 25 percent of their income away and make them work longer hours. How is that balancing work and family?

This body took 7 years to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act with the help of my good friend from Massachusetts. We tried to make it possible for people to balance their needs, but now, this administration is depriving these families and their children from receiving basic necessities.

I am glad my colleague from Massachusetts has raised the issue beyond just the numbers and statistics we cite.

These are real people and real lives out there struggling to make ends meet. And now the Republican leadership is depriving this body a chance to vote on this amendment which would prohibit the administration from moving forward with their overtime proposal. I am glad my colleague made the point about the firefighters, about the EMT services, about the police officers. These are the first responders on homeland security. This administration is not only turning their back on veterans and people in uniform who are going to be shoved into the class of not getting overtime pay, but even our first responders now are going to be asked to pay a price as well.

Let's vote on the Harkin amendment. Let's have an up-and-down vote to determine whether or not this body believes overtime pay ought to still be the law of the land and not relegated to a handful of people.

So, Mr. President, I thank my colleague for his efforts. I am glad to join with him as a cosponsor of the Harkin amendment.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I underline once again what the Senator from Connecticut has been saying about the average wage in 2001. The average wage of the jobs we lost in 2001 was $44,570, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average wage of the jobs we are gaining today is $35,000, down 21 percent. This is outside of the overtime. These are the new jobs. This is the average wage today of the new jobs being created, $35,000; $44,000 of the jobs we lost in 2001.

This is what is happening, and we are saying to these workers: Well, that is not bad enough. We are going to deny you overtime pay. We have been denying you an increase in the minimum wage for 7 years. We are going to deny you unemployment compensation-90,000 people a week. These are the facts. The average wage of jobs lost was $44,570 to but only $35,410 for the jobs gained.

As this chart shows you, American workers are working longer and harder than workers in any other industrial nation in the world. Look at this line right over here. The United States is right at the top. Americans are working longer, they are working harder, and they are falling further and further and further and further behind. And what is the answer of this administration? Cut overtime. We can do better. What is the answer of the Republican leadership? Deny us a chance to do something about it. That is what we are faced with.

Well, it seems to me that hopefully Americans will have their answer sometime soon. If we are not able to on this bill, I know the Senators from Connecticut and Illinois share my view. I know the Senator from Iowa does. This is just the beginning. This is the opening shot. I tell our Republican friends, this issue is coming at you again and again and again.
Make no mistake about it. You don't like to vote on it? Too bad. These families are suffering out there, and we are going to keep bringing this up, again and again and again and again, until you do vote on it.

Mr. DURBIN. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. KENNEDY. I am glad to yield.

Mr. DURBIN. I thank the Senator from Massachusetts and the Senator from Connecticut. I think what we hear in this discussion should be described in simple terms to those following this debate. We are asking, on the floor of the Senate, for an up-or-down vote for Members to be counted on the question of whether the Bush administration will, for the first time in the history of the law, restrict overtime pay to American workers.

Since the law was created in 1938 establishing overtime, each successive administration that has changed the law-Democrat and Republican-has expanded the class of workers eligible for overtime.

But this time, this administration, which has witnessed almost 3 million jobs eliminated in America, has now suggested that we should reduce and eliminate overtime for 8 million American workers.

I say to the Senator from Massachusetts, it is part of a pattern. The Bush administration is not sensitive to the real needs of working families. They have resisted the efforts of the Senator from Massachusetts to increase the minimum wage for 7 years. Think about how many people are working one, two, and three jobs to try to put enough money together to keep their families in a good home, to pay their basic bills. Yet they resist increases in the minimum wage.

Then, when you ask them about these jobs going overseas, the Bush administration's economic adviser says the outsourcing of jobs to India and China is a good thing. Where does he live? Where does he get his advice? This man is trapped in a textbook. He should get out on Main Street and talk to real families. The outsourcing of jobs overseas is not a good thing. It is costing us jobs in America.

When the Senators from Massachusetts and Connecticut stand up and say, well, for goodness' sake, at least take pity on unemployed Americans, help them keep their families together, pay for their health insurance now that they have lost their jobs, consistently, on the floor of the Senate, the other party-the Republican Party-votes against the extension of unemployment benefits.

In my State we have thousands of people unemployed who have no benefits coming in. How do you keep it together under those circumstances?

And the last point-an important one we are discussing-is the idea that we would eliminate overtime pay for 8 million workers. I think the Senator has made such a positive and important point. Who are these workers? They are firefighters; they are policemen; they are nurses.

I do not know about the State of Massachusetts. In the State of Illinois, we have a serious shortage of nurses. Hospitals come to me and say: Can you help us bring nurses in from the Philippines and overseas? We don't have enough nurses. And this administration says we are going to eliminate overtime pay for nurses? What will that do to us? Fewer and fewer health care professionals in hospitals cannot make America healthier or safer, and that is what they are proposing.

But today I believe the Senator from Massachusetts has brought to us the icing on the cake. Now we have this administration saying, when it comes to overtime, if you happen to be a soldier in the military or an activated guardsman or reservist, and you serve your country, and are trained in service, pick up skills, when you come home, because of this Bush administration proposal, you will be disqualified from overtime pay.

It is almost incredible to say those words: That men and women leave their families with the 233rd unit of the Illinois National Guard, military police, and are gone for a year over in Iraq-who are coming home in a few weeks, thank God; their families have waited patiently-but if they made the mistake of picking up a new skill while they were activated, they could be disqualified from overtime pay when they return to their job. That is exactly what the Bush administration is proposing.

We hear so many speeches about how Members of the Senate are going to stand up for fighting soldiers, stand up for the vets. I ask the Senator from Massachusetts, when it comes to the Bush proposal to eliminate overtime for those vets who have been trained in the military, how can this possibly be a demonstration of our support and admiration for the men and women in uniform?

Mr. KENNEDY. Well, it is beyond comprehension, I say to the Senator, that in this proposal the administration has yielded to the recommendation of the National Association of Manufacturers, that those who get special skills in the military would not qualify for overtime. And I read that particular provision in the proposed regulation.

I ask unanimous consent to print the paragraph in the RECORD, dated March 31, of the proposed rules that talk about training in the Armed Forces.

[From the Federal Register Mar. 31, 2003]

(d) The phrase "customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction" generally restricts the exemption to professions where specialized academic training is a standard prerequisite for entrance into the profession.
The best prima facie evidence that an employee meets this requirement is possession of the appropriate academic degree. However, the word "customarily" means that the exemption is also available to employees in such professions who have substantially the same knowledge level as the degreed employees, but who attained such knowledge through a combination of work experience, training in the armed forces, attending a technical school, attending a community college or other intellectual instruction.

Mr. KENNEDY. It is right in there. And it was requested by the National Association of Manufacturers. They made a comment about how happy they are it is in there. It is one of the most offensive proposals this administration has made.
I want to just make a final comment and respond to what the Senator has mentioned with regard to the nurses because this is so important, as I know the Senator is concerned about the issue of the quality of health care.

This is from Cathy Stoddart of Mingo Junction, OH, a nurse at the Allegheny Regional Hospital in Pittsburgh:

. . . President Bush and the Republican members of the House and Senate are trying to take away the one thing that discouraged hospital administrators from forcing nurses to work overtime. If you think nurses are running away now, just wait until their employers start telling them they have to work a 20 hour shift and aren't getting overtime pay for a single minute of it!

This proposal affects the quality of health care. We talked about the standard of living for working families and the challenges they are facing over a lack of an increase in the minimum wage, over the lack of unemployment compensation, and now there is the overtime proposal. This is going to have a dramatic impact and adverse effect on the quality of health care in this country. And for what? And that is because of the urging of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce urging the administration to find a way to cut back on overtime for 8 million workers in this country.

I thank the Senator from Illinois for raising not only what this issue is going to mean for working families, but what the impact is going to be on, in this case, health care and other vital services.

We have talked about veterans. In that regard, I bring to the attention of the Senator Randy Fleming, who writes:

I am also proud to say that I am a military veteran. I have worked for Boeing for 23 years. The training I received in the Air Force qualified me for a good civilian job. The second thing is overtime pay. With the overtime, I have paid for my kid's college education. The changes this administration is trying to make in the overtime regulations would break the government's bargain with the men and women in the military, close down the opportunities that working vets and their families thought they could count on.

When I signed up back in 1973, the Air Force and I made a deal that I thought was fair. They got a chunk of my time and I got training to help me build the rest of my life. There was no part of the deal that said I would have to give up my right to overtime pay. You have heard of the marriage penalty. I think what these new rules do is create a military penalty. If you get your training in the military, no matter what your white-collar profession is, your employer can make you work as many hours as they want and not pay an extra dime. If that is not a bait and switch, I don't know what is.

I have no doubt employers will take advantage of this new opportunity to cut our overtime pay. They will say if they can't take out our overtime pay, they will have to eliminate the jobs. It won't be just the bad employers because these rules will make it very hard for companies to do the right thing. The veterans and other working people will be stuck with less time, less money, and a broken deal.

There it is, in real life, Randy Fleming, a veteran who looks down the road in the eyes of his children, hard working, played by the rules, served our country, acquired some skills, and he is looking to the future.

This is a lousy proposal. It doesn't deserve to be favorably considered. But our Republican friends are refusing us, denying us the opportunity to get a vote on it. I know the Senator from Iowa would be willing to agree to an hour of debate, a half hour of debate, 15 minutes of debate-we know what the issues are-to get a vote. The idea to use the rules of the Senate to deny the Senate the ability to express its will on this issue is an enormous insult to working families all across the country and one they will not forget easily.

Mr. HARKIN. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. KENNEDY. I am glad to yield.

Mr. HARKIN. I thank the Senator from Massachusetts for his continued strong support of our working families, especially on the issues of the minimum wage and overtime. I was listening to the Senator talk about the issue dealing with training in the armed services. I ask the Senator, is it not true that since 1938, when we have gone through World War II, the Korean War, the cold war, the Vietnam War, Gulf War, everything else, during that time our young men and women who served in the military who got training and then later got out were still eligible for overtime pay regardless of the kind of training they got?

Mr. KENNEDY. The Senator is absolutely correct. I welcome his historical memory on this issue. We have been involved in conflicts-Vietnam, Korean War, World War II-with Republican and Democratic administrations, and at no time during those conflicts did we ever say the skills that were developed in the military were going to effectively preclude you from receiving overtime. This is the first time with this administration. The Senator is correct.

Mr. HARKIN. I ask the Senator further, would this not then set up the oddest kind of circumstance with a veteran and a nonveteran? Let's say two young people just got out of high school. They see these ads on television that say join the Army, be all you can be, get all this training to help you out. One friend decides to go in the Army. The other doesn't. It is a volunteer force. The person who goes in the Army gets training as an aerospace mechanic on engines or something like that, and comes out. The other person has not gone in the military, has different jobs, gets some kind of on-the-job training.
Could this not set up a circumstance where if both of them were working for the same company, the person who entered the military and got that training, because of the way it is written in the rules, could be classified exempt from overtime, and the person who didn't go in the military would still get the overtime for the same exact job? Wouldn't this be the kind of situation that could arise?

Mr. KENNEDY. The overtime rule is unfair. As the Senator knows, particularly today, when so much of the combat arms are National Guard-probably 40 percent of the combat arms in Iraq today are National Guard and Reserve-these are people getting these skills, going back home, and getting the jobs. They are not staying in there 5, 7, 10 years. They are receiving these skills now, and these skills are necessary in terms of protecting the members of their squad or unit, to ensure that the military mission is going to be advanced.

I would be interested in the Senator's reaction. I mentioned Randy Fleming, who is a military veteran and served in the Air Force from 1973 to 1979, got training in the military, and used overtime to pay for the tuition of his children. He says:
When I went in the service, I went in the service to get that training. No one told me that after I served 6 years in the Air Force and got my training, that in the twilight period of my life, because I received that training 20 years ago, I am going to be denied the overtime pay I had planned to put aside to educate my daughter. No one told me, he said in his letter. You talk about a marriage penalty. Here it is, a penalty against us. Where is the fairness? Where is the justice? Isn't the word of the United States good on this?

I commend the Senator for bringing up this historical background because we have never done that to the veterans.

I mentioned earlier the letter to Secretary Chao from Thomas Corey: We would like to make you aware that the modification of the rules would give the employers the ability to prohibit veterans from receiving overtime pay based on the training they received. This legitimizes the already extensive problem of vetism, discrimination against veterans.

This is it. I put the section in the RECORD of the proposal. I think there are many reasons to be against this proposal, but the signal it sends to the families of our servicemen couldn't be more unfortunate.

I yield the floor.

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