When it comes to proposed legislation, beware the political and media bias, and read the bill – like on the “Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017.”
There was a minor blip on the media radar about a week ago that suggested Congress was passing a law that would take away workers’ overtime pay, and exchange it for paid time off. Understandably, the headline – The House just passed a bill that affects overtime pay – caused a little alarm on social media. The journalist who wrote the article even pushed the issue a little more, and requested that readers who would be affected by the bill contact her for a future story.
One problem is that the article itself didn’t really explain the bill. It did a good job explaining why politicians like Elizabeth Warren aren’t happy with it, or at least pointed out that they are pushing back against it. The article doesn’t explain that the reason why Warren doesn’t like this bill is that the only way American workers could feasibly be “forced” to take time off instead of overtime pay is if a union cut the deal for the workers.
H.R. 1180, or the “Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017” would make it possible for workers and employers to choose to use paid time off instead of overtime pay. The bill reasonably states limitations on this, including a cap on time that can be transferred in this way, and states that if an employee doesn’t use the extra time off, then the extra pay must be given instead. Employers are given approximately a month to disburse those funds, which theoretically allows for various payroll accounting procedures – some employers still do pay monthly wages.
The point is that the House bill is very specific in its language, sets specific parameters, requires full consent of employees, and by the nature of its language, makes it impossible for any employee to be forced to take time off as opposed to overtime pay by any employer. Theoretically, employees could be forced to take time off instead of overtime pay in only one situation – again, if a union entered an agreement with an employer on behalf of the employees.
While it might be hard to think of anyone who would want to enter into this kind of agreement in the first place, remember that there is an ever-increasing number of people who are raising families and caring for aging parents simultaneously. More time off, and more flexibility with those days could be priceless to those families. It’s fair to assume that the House had that in mind when this bill was passed.
That said, the question for Warren and her colleagues who are opposed to this legislation is this: Are you worried about workers’ rights, or are you worried about workers figuring out that unions could force them into an agreement for time off instead of overtime pay if this passes? Maybe they’re just a little concerned about unions losing more members, once they realize that the union leaders and politicians they support could be their real enemies – not their employers.