Lawmakers who cozy up to corporate America love to sponsor legislation that to the uninitiated might sound like a good thing for workers, but in the end is just another pathway for big business to line their pockets with even higher profits.
Case in point is a bill sponsored by Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) called the Workplace Families Flexibility Act of 2017. The legislation, which passed the House earlier this month, is being touted by Republican supporters as one that would give workers more say in the workplace. But really it gives companies an out from paying workers overtime.
The legislation would have the effect of giving employers more control of their workers’ time and money, and would take much-needed funds out of the hands of working Americans by creating a false choice between paying overtime now for those working more than 40 hours a week versus the promise of allowing workers to take off time later.
As Vicki Shabo, vice president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, wrote in The Hill newspaper, “Giving employers license to demand extra hours while denying workers control over their schedules is a step backward, not a solution for hardworking families. The Working Families Flexibility Act would undermine workers’ ability to make ends meet, plan for family time, and have predictability, stability and true flexibility at work.”
While supporters claim that the legislation grants U.S. workers greater balance by giving them flexibility to take comp time instead of overtime pay if they prefer, the reality is companies ultimately can decide to decline these time-off requests. And if an employee changes their mind and asks to have their time cashed out, employers have up to 30 days to comply.
If lawmakers were really interested in helping the work-life balance of workers, and particularly women in the workplace, they would move to implement paid family leave and sick leave. Parents shouldn’t have to enter the poor house when they bring a child into the world. Paid parental leave and paid sick days would help alleviate some of the strain on their finances.
The Teamsters have been outspoken advocates of such a move, approving a resolution at the union’s 29th International Convention last year that called for paid family and medical leave. Now it’s time for those on Capitol Hill to craft a measure that offers real relief, not just shady promises that further reward the corporate class.