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Public Statements

Providing For Consideration of H.R. 1406, Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the managers of this legislation. And I think it should be made very clear, since we'll have a general debate that I hope to engage in, that the underlying premise of this bill, H.R. 1406, is two simple points, and H.R. 1406 undermines this point.

The Fair Labor Standards Act only provides the incentive for employers to adhere to the 40-hour workweek by paying time and a half. H.R. 1406 removes that fundamental requirement and allows employers to pay nothing for overtime work at the time the work is performed.

I, too, am sensitive to those who want to join with their families, and clearly, that opportunity is there. But if you allow this bill to go forward, you take the choice out of the hands of the employee. And if you are looking at a boilermaker, or those in manufacturing, and a boilermaker can have close to 210 overtime hours making a certain amount per hour, literally, if you force them to take comp time and not be paid, you would cause them to lose their time and a half, and they would lose almost $6,000 in income.

I can tell you, with the economic divide between the top 1 percent and working Americans, many people work overtime in order to receive payment. And I think that H.R. 1406 goes in the wrong direction.

What I would encourage my colleagues to do is to spend some time discussing the budget, passing a budget, ending sequestration, creating opportunities for the private sector to hire more people; and, frankly, the private sector would do well to cut their costs by hiring additional persons.

So I oppose the rule and the underlying bill, and, Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent at this time to bring up H.R. 900, which would end sequestration at this time and begin to put us on the right track to ensure that we end the cuts in air traffic controllers, in Homeland Security, in Head Start, in Medicare, Medicaid, Meals on Wheels, and begin to get this Nation back on track.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in opposition to the Rule on H.R. 1406, the so-called "Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013.'' I thank Ranking Member Miller for this opportunity to speak on behalf and in support of the working women and men in my District and against this rule because it does not fix this very flawed bill.

If the Education and the Workforce Committee had accepted Congressman Joe Courtney's amendment in the nature of a substitute when the bill was marked up in full Committee--workers would have something to be cheering about today. His amendment would have created 56 hours of paid medical leave for employees to use when they needed it.

The rule for this bill should be open and allow us to do something to help workers and their families. When the economy is weak--workers and their families need more protection not less.

Under current law (the Fair Labor Standards Act), employers are required to pay workers time-and-a-half cash for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.

The bill's text suggests that existing workers will retain their right to receive overtime pay and that only new employees would fall under the ``comp time'' provisions. The bill attempts to divide existing workers and new workers by denying one group of workers something as basic as equal pay for equal work. This may lead some employers to prefer their workers who are not protected by wage laws.

The reality is all workers in this economy face the potential fallout from a change in labor laws that reduce protection of monetary compensation for work done.

The bill fails to mention that workers already have the right to ask for ``comp time'' within any 40 hour workweek when they need it. What is not allowed is an employer making the decision that workers must take ``comp time'' when they work overtime.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 established the 40-hour workweek to allow employees to spend more time away from work and encourage employers to hire more staff when workloads increase. The FLSA's only incentive for employers to maintain a 40-hour workweek is the requirement that they pay a time-and-a-half cash premium for overtime.

The cost of labor is a factor in helping to expand the numbers of employed persons in our nation. When employers see the cost savings associated with hiring more workers as the hours worked by existing employees increase labor cost due to overtime pay--they hire more workers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts overtime as a benefit not as pay. If the result of the bill is to have employees work more hours, but without the guarantee of compensation--it is flawed.

This bill also makes it harder for America's workers to have their rights enforced by the Department of Labor. Amending the law to weaken work for pay requirements would result in even more widespread violation of the overtime law and more workers working longer hours for less pay.

Under the rule for H.R. 1406, employers can schedule workers to work up to 160 hours of "comp time.'' Workers will be cheated out of their accrued overtime earnings when their employer goes bankrupt.

I stand today with America's workers. We are united in opposition to H.R. 1406, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. We should not be wasting time on legislation that is going nowhere. Instead we should be focused on the real problems facing Americans, like creating jobs, ending the Sequester, and helping businesses grow.

Therefore, I ask unanimous consent to call up for immediate consideration H.R. 900, the Cancel the Sequester Act of 2013.

If Congress wants to do something for workers we should end the sequester.

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