Uncle Sam, new laws and a total lube job

In Opinion
1998 Archive Correspondent zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

A new law which took effect January first gives companies the option to schedule their employees 10 or 12 hours a day without paying one red cent of overtime. The law does not eliminate overtime, however; those who work more than 40 hours in a week will still be paid time-and-a-half.

How did this happen? I'll tell you: the way our elected government "representatives" work is they campaign on whichever platform will put them in office, then they fly to Washington in taxpayer-funded airplanes and hop in bed with whichever special interest group comes along first. Or the richest, as the case may be. Anyway, these newly ordained reps, the majority of whom represent none of the people who put them in their leather-and-marble offices in the first place, are susceptible to fits of political foreplay with people who flash large wads of money around like the tobacco industry.

Speaking of the tobacco industry, R.J. Reynolds is so confident that its product is not addictive and is not deadly they are going to spend millions of dollars to prove it. But the company will not stop making the cigarettes or curb their advertising proved to be aimed at children.

So these hordes of special interest groups – cigarette companies, power brokers, the NRA and thousands of others – try to latch onto the newest, most likely-to-succeed Congressman. These groups, who are trained in public relations and the science of persuasion, work their darndest to ensure the legislature will vote into law bills which best benefit said groups.

By far the most effective method of securing those votes is to buy them, but the Congress must still sell the free world (aka America) the exclusive benefits of this new law. That is to say, whichever group has the most cash will get the best results out of the legislature. In other words, "getting in bed with…" in Washingtonese. Of course, it is highly illegal to accept money in exchange for a vote in Congress. But it is not illegal to accept campaign contributions from hundreds of supporters who just so happen to all work at the same tobacco-packaging plant in Tennessee. The result is legislation that saves someone lots of money (your employer) at someone else's expense (you).

Back to the overtime thing. What we have here is a government – the same people who brought us a 75-cent minimum wage increase – telling companies that it is okay to work employees without the reward of overtime pay, a law that was previously established to provide extra pay for extra hours.

So 80% of retail workers such as myself will lose their sole reason to work long weekend and holiday hours. It is true that the new law will increase flexibility among working-class families who normally work 40 hours a week and would just as soon work ten hours a day, four days a week and take long weekends. But most people will not benefit directly because most people would just as soon work a five-day week and still hit Vegas on the weekends.

On top of that, part-time workers will never take pleasure in this new flexibility. The reason people work limited hours in the first place is because of other responsibilities like children and college. These Americans, like most of CSUF, will only lose from Capitol Hill's most recent attempt at law that serves big business. Maybe our representatives need some flexibility and time off to think about the term Laissez-faire. How about a permanent vacation?

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