The conservative movement has taken a turn for the worse as it continues to fight against the middle class on the federal and state levels. And it is not just corporations versus organized labor, but the Republican Party versus every worker in every industry.
On the federal level, there is Working Families Flexibility Act — H.R. 1406 — a bill co-sponsored by our own Rep. Vicky Hartzler. This proposed law would permit a “worker the option of receiving compensatory time instead of overtime hours worked.” The justification for the law is that “many Americans would prefer spending time with loved ones.”
However, with so many Americans working at or below the poverty level, the time-and-a-half received as a boost to their weekly paycheck would put food on the table, clothes on children’s backs and help pay for those expenses we deal with every day.
In fact, employers are already using this tactic to reduce payroll overhead, along with limiting hours to 37 a week and not permitting overtime while requiring greater output from workers. We can always point to big-box retail stores as glaring examples of limiting time and pay for employees, but many other industries are doing the same.
Closer to home, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and its co-chair, state Sen. Ed Emery, R-Springfield, are working hard to further displace blue-collar and “non-professional’ workers by fighting unions and targeting the employees’ source of income.
This is fair: If one is working in a union shop and receiving benefits negotiated by the union, then that individual needs to pay dues. There is no such thing as a free lunch, regardless of what conservative mantra is this week. In fact, you can thank the unions for giving us the 40-hour work week, paid vacation and sick leave, and a plethora of other benefits that workers enjoy.
However, if Missouri becomes a right-to-work state, wages will be reduced without a corresponding reduction in cost of living. This means more men and women will be living at or below the poverty line, and, if Medicaid expansion is not passed in Missouri, uninsured.
More about the Medicare expansion next week.
Emery does not believe the American worker is worth $50,000 a year. He told one group that, “They couldn't get a job for $25 an hour but they can at $20 because they're worth $20, or they're worth $17, or they're worth $12.” In right-to-work states, the average wage earner makes about $1,500 less annually than in states where unions have had their say.
It has become an “us-versus-them” situation, and Republican legislators are widening the gap. This is not only about the minimum wage earners trying to make ends meet. This is about the dwindling middle class and our ability to survive even on $25.00 an hour. This is about taking money out of the worker’s pockets to be put into … Expansion? Benefits? Modernization? The pockets of the shareholders?
We shop at the big box stores, not because they pay their employees well, but because we need to buy what we can afford. The average wage for the American workers has been stuck at 1990 levels while the price of food, clothing and fuel for our transportation continues to climb.
Henry Ford had the right idea. He paid his employees higher wages than any of the competitors of the time. He provided them with benefits and worked with labor as the business continued to grow.
What happened to his understanding that the worker bee makes the company money? The real movers and shakers of a business are the men and women employed by that business. If they are not happy, if they perceive that their money is being taken away, they will revolt.
It appears that the money saved by lowering pay scales — by denying overtime pay — is not being recycled back into the business. When business neglects its employees with the aid of conservative politicians, we need to revisit the adage: “There is not a company that is unionized that did not deserve it.”
We need to stop legislation that takes money out of the worker’s pocket, whether on a state or federal level. Yes, I would love to spend more time with my family, but not to the benefit of Mr. Scrooge.
David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics.