Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Working Women Could Use Comp Time

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Working Women Could Use Comp Time

Article excerpt

Brother, can you spare some time?

Most working women I know would give their right arm for an extra day off. Oh, for some free hours to take a child to a movie, meet a friend for lunch or catch up on housework in a leisurely manner.

Men may also feel time-pressed, but women are absolutely time-starved as they struggle to fit an outside job, child care and housekeeping in a mere 24-hour day. They look back wistfully at an era when a mother could find time to bake a pie. Thus, working women - and men - must be wondering what is propelling the "friends of labor" to shoot down legislation that would give workers the opportunity to accumulate more free time. The "comp-time" bill would let workers choose between two forms of overtime compensation: either the traditional time-and-a-half pay or additional time off calculated at the same rate. The bill has passed the House and is struggling in the Senate. President Bill Clinton vows to veto it. Why would many Democrats and their labor allies object to the comp-time bill, other than that it was Republican-inspired and popular among women? Union leaders contend that employers might coerce workers to take extra time off rather than pay them additional money at overtime rates. That is an odd argument. After all, employers could try to coerce workers to do all sorts of things that workers are not required to do. They sometimes pressure workers to put in overtime at less than the overtime rate. They allow them to work around unmarked hazardous chemicals. The point is, employers break the law when they do so. Those truly worried about workers being forced to take time off in lieu of overtime pay should work to insert more safeguards into the legislation. However, it is not entirely obvious that employers would automatically prefer to give workers more time off rather than more pay. Indeed, the trends point in the opposite direction. Certainly in businesses where employers are picking up the expense of their workers' health insurance, the preference these days, it seems, is to have employees put in longer hours, even at time-and-a-half pay. …

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