Monday, September 04, 2006

A Modest Labor Day Agenda

As you'll notice, my list is, in good part, about time rather than money, unions, or any of that. There's two reasons for that: first, most workers are either parents of children, or have aging parents to look after. This is a pro-family thing: if a worker's time is a free resource for the employer, the employer will eat up all the time it can get, and leave the worker with little left over for raising his/her children, looking after infirm relatives, or simply living his/her own life.

Second, if a worker's overtime hours aren't a free resource, then an employer will likely have to hire more workers, rather than paying overtime to its existing workers, which tightens the labor market and helps put upward pressure on worker compensation.

And finally, it's a good thing for the worker to simply have the free time. So ending the availability of overtime in particular as a free resource for employers does positive things for workers in three ways, rather than just one.

Anyhow, here's the list:

  1. Increase the minimum wage to at least $7/hour.
  2. Make time and a half for overtime mandatory for everyone under, say, $50,000, and for persons with base salary up to 3 times that amount, pay them for overtime at the $50K rate.
  3. Put some teeth into enforcement of OT laws. There's a hell of a lot of anecdotal evidence that more and more employers are putting pressure on employees to work OT 'off the clock.' This has to end.
  4. Make ten days of annual leave and five days of sick leave a year a legal minimum, and forbid employers from penalizing workers for using those days of leave.
  5. Union organizing via card check.
  6. Single-payer universal health care. When employees are afraid to leave a job because they might lose their health benefits, it really weakens an employee's bargaining leverage. Then notice that this isn't happening to one or two workers here and there, but all across our economy.


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