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Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong and unyielding opposition to H.R. 1406, the so-called ``Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013.'' I thank Mr. COURTNEY for this opportunity to speak on behalf and in support of the working women and men in my District and against this terrible bill, which has been offered repeatedly over several Congresses, and each time it has found strong opposition and ultimate defeat.

This bill should it become law would take income out of the hands of 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.

According to statisticians with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there is no survey to offer insight on the issues addressed in this bill--the desire of employees to receive ``comp time'' instead of cash for their work.

We do know that 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 Administration along with many of my colleagues will not support H.R. 1406--and it will not become law for very good reasons. H.R. 1406 supporters say that it would not prevent employers from cutting the overtime hours and reducing the take-home pay of employees who currently have the right to overtime compensation. But will workers be in a position to assert this right given the economic climate and their own situations.

So-called ``comp time'' or the ``company time'' legislation would allow employers to pay workers nothing for overtime work at the time the work is performed--in exchange for a promise of time off in the future.

``COMP TIME'' WOULD REDUCE NEW WORKER AND COULD JEOPARDIZE EXISTING WORKER TAKE HOME PAY

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the average weekly overtime hours for manufacturing workers in 2012 was 4.2 hours or over 44 hours a week. In a year 4.2 additional hours of overtime, considering 2 weeks for vacation would total 210 hours.

The average income of a Boilermaker with less than 2 years of experience would earn $35,856.00 a year or about $18 an hour. In real dollar terms, a Boilermaker making $18 an hour, when working overtime would earn $27 an hour. Under H.R. 1406, the total forgone hours for the average workweek for a manufacturing worker over a year is 210 hours--if the worker is a Boilermaker it means a loss of $5,670 annually.

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.

``COMP TIME'' WOULD HURT WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES

Another clue that this bill may be way off the mark for what workers need--is the reaction of organized labor to it being brought before the House of Representatives for a vote. Labor is in strong opposition to H.R. 1406 because they know what this bill would mean to workers and their families, just as I and many of you know--it would mean forced labor hours without giving workers the guaranteed right to get paid for their work. The skill acquired by a worker is something they own and can bring to the market place in exchange for a fair wage. This is an important component of a capitalistic system that should be valued and respected.

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.

H.R. 1406 places unnecessary competitive pressure on employees to accept ``comp time'' because employers believe it is an easy way to reduce operational costs for their businesses. H.R. 1406 provides no meaningful protection against employers pressuring workers to enter into ``comp time'' agreements.

The first quarter of 2013 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded an increase of overtime hours worked to 4.3 hours per week for manufacturing jobs this is an increase over the last quarter of 2012. If Congress allows the free market to work then the numbers of employed persons will increase.

``COMP TIME'' WOULD THREATEN THE PROTECTIONS OFFERED BY THE 40 HOUR WORKWEEK

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.

The 40-hour workweek discourages employers from demanding overtime by making overtime more expensive.

This bill by contrast, encourages employers to demand more overtime by making overtime less expensive.

This gives all of the power to employers to demand their employees work longer hours without adequate compensation.

By making it cheaper for employers to demand overtime, ``comp time'' would lead to more mandatory overtime, longer hours, and more unpredictable work schedules for workers.

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.

``COMP TIME'' IS A PAY CUT FOR AMERICA'S WORKERS

Millions of workers depend on cash overtime to make ends meet and pay their housing, food, and other living expenses.

These workers would see a substantial reduction in their take-home pay if they were compensated with time off rather than cash up front.

It is true that ``comp time'' is paid leave, but most workers would have been paid anyway if they had not taken the time off, and under H.R. 1406 they are paid nothing for their overtime work at the time they work it.

Again, H.R. 1406 takes the power out of the hands of the employees. H.R. 1406 does not ensure that workers' choice to reduce their income through ``comp time'' is truly voluntary.

H.R. 1406 provides no meaningful protection against employers assigning overtime work preferentially to employees who accept ``comp time''.

Under 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.

If Congress wants to do something for workers we should support the President's Budget for state paid leave programs. His proposal would not force workers to choose between taking time off for family needs and receiving income, or even risk losing their jobs. The President's minimum wage proposal would also support working families by making sure that all workers receive enough hourly income to make ends meet.

That is why I oppose H.R. 1406 and urge my colleagues to join me in voting against this terrible legislation.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the gentleman for his leadership.

Mr. Speaker, you've seen them, many, many women, hourly workers. You've seen them with their sneakers on, their rubber-soled shoes, standing at bus stops, getting on buses in order to get to work and to get back in time to be with their children.

But those workers need cash, Mr. Speaker. They need cash to make ends meet in housing, food and other living expenses. It's also our men as well.

These workers would see a substantial reduction in their take-home pay if they were compensated with time off rather than cash up front. We know that if H.R. 1406 was passed they would be paid nothing for their overtime work at the time they work.

We also realize that employers can schedule workers to work up to 160 hours of comp time. Workers will be cheated out of the accrued overtime earnings, these same mothers and many, many men who depend on this overtime pay. You've seen them.

The same mothers that will receive for their gift on Mother's Day a little outstretched hand with maybe a daffodil or a rose in it from a little 5-year old, mothers who need the cash.

Let me tell you that the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce is against this legislation because they know that there will be preferential treatment. There will be pets, and the employers will pick those who have taken the comp time.

You've seen these mothers. They get the outstretched hand and the little flower. Pay them their money.

This is a bad bill.

[Begin Insert]
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong and unyielding opposition to 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 terrible bill, which has been offered repeatedly over several Congresses, and each time it has found strong opposition and ultimate defeat.

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.

Workers can request ``comp time'' during any 40 hour work week if they need it.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the average weekly overtime hours for manufacturing workers in 2012 was 4.2 hours or over 44 hours a week. In a year 4.2 additional hours of overtime, considering 2 weeks for vacation would total 210 hours.

A Boilermaker with less than 2 years of experience earns $35,856.00 a year or $18 an hour. A Boilermaker making $18 an hour working overtime would earn $27 an hour.

In 2012 manufacturer workers overtime averaged 4.2 hours a week that would be 210 hours for 50 weeks of work.

A Boilermaker over a year could accrue 210 hours in overtime--if this bill becomes law this could mean a loss of $5,670 annually.

The first quarter of 2013 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded an increase of overtime hours worked to 4.3 hours per week for manufacturing jobs this is an increase over the last quarter of 2012. If Congress allows the free market to work then the numbers of employed persons will increase.

Labor is in strong opposition to H.R. 1406 because--this bill would mean forced labor hours without giving workers the guaranteed right to get paid for their work.

Workers already have the right to ask for ``comp time'' within any 40 hour workweek when they need it.

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.

If Congress wants to do something for workers we should support the President's Budget for state paid leave programs. His proposal would not force workers to choose between taking time off for family needs and receiving income, or even risk losing their jobs. The President's minimum wage proposal would also support working families by making sure that all workers receive enough hourly income to make ends meet.

That is why I oppose H.R. 1406 and urge my colleagues to join me in voting against this terrible legislation.

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