WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 26, 2017
This proposal is about time and flexibility. Across the country, there are many working parents struggling to find enough time to spend with their children; students doing their best to juggle a full-time job and earn a college degree; and employees in need of more time to care for an aging relative or fulfill other personal responsibilities.
There are only so many hours in the day, and rigid 9 to 5 work schedules can make it difficult for many Americans to keep up with their personal and professional lives. Unfortunately, an outdated labor law isn’t helping. Workers today are stuck under federal rules that restrict flexibility in the workplace.
Recognizing a change to the Fair Labor Standards Act
was needed, Republicans and Democrats came together more than 30 years ago to amend the law and empower workers with more flexibility. But there’s a catch. The change applied only to workers in the public sector.
Congress gave state and local government employers the option of offering employees entitled to overtime pay the choice between paid time off and cash wages. However, the federal government still prohibits private-sector workers from receiving the same choice.
This double standard isn’t fair. Private-sector workers should have the same freedom and flexibility provided to workers in the public sector.
Unfortunately, our Democrat colleagues and liberal special interests have defended this double standard for years. To the busy parents who want more time to attend their kid’s soccer games; to the students who need a break from work to study for finals; and to the single mom who wants more time and flexibility to spend with a newborn — the message of our colleagues is this: Government knows best.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 85 percent of employees say workplace flexibility is important when considering a new job. Yet there are some in Washington who think the government should serve as a barrier to the type of flexible job so many Americans are looking for.
“It may seem odd that Democrats oppose a sensible idea that most workers say they want.” Those aren’t my words. Surprisingly, those are the words from a New York Times editorial published in 1997.
The Democrats’ logic simply doesn’t make sense. Why are so-called progressives clinging to a policy from the 1930s that prohibits private-sector workers from exercising the same choices available to government workers?
The answer is Big Labor. If powerful union bosses believe workers should be denied this choice, so too do Democrats in Congress.
They haven’t always taken such an extreme approach. During his nomination acceptance speech, former President Bill Clinton said we should pass a law that “allows employees to take their overtime pay in money, or in time off, depending on what’s better for their family.” And speaking from the Oval Office as he addressed the nation, President Clinton said comp time legislation would “be good for workers, good for business, good for our economy, and strong in the building of our families.”
But today, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle believe Washington knows what’s best for families. They believe the federal government should have control over people’s time and work schedules. They will not stand up to special interest groups. So in the name of “worker protection,” they’re doing everything they can to deny Americans more opportunities to balance work and family.
Over the years, Republicans have engaged in a good faith effort to address concerns about the proposal. The bill before us today has very strong worker protections — even stronger than those that exist in the public sector. For example, an employee can cash out unused comp time at any time for any reason. This bill puts workers in control over their earned time off, and they can switch back to receiving cash wages for overtime hours whenever they choose.
In no way does this proposal undermine existing protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act
. Workers would accrue comp time at the long-standing overtime rate of time-and-a-half.
My colleague Bradley Byrne will explain the worker protections the bill provides in greater detail. But the point is that progressives and the far-left are running out of excuses not to support this commonsense legislation.
I want to thank Representative Martha Roby for championing this proposal. It represents a positive step to improve the quality of life of hardworking Americans. I hope Democrats and Republicans can come together and finally provide workers with the choice, flexibility, and freedom they deserve.
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