Thursday, May 23, 2013

Family Time Flexibility Act

I am most comfortable writing about family, homeschooling and parenting.  I usually stay away from politics. I do not identify as a conservative and I realize that is somewhat rare in the homeschool blog world.  But sometimes something affects me personally and I just can not let it go.  I need to make my voice heard.  In this case, this is a parenting and family life issue.  It's called The Family Time Flexibility Act.

This is how Representative Judy Biggert defines the bill:

What the bill does do is two things: it gives employees more choices, and it gives employers another option to make their employees happy. The concept is a very simple one: if workers have to work overtime, they should be allowed to choose how they will be compensated — with more money or more time off. And if employers want to offer another way to keep their employees happy, they can offer them the option of taking time and a half off in lieu of time and a half pay for hours worked overtime.
On the surface this seems great.  It seems like employers want to make their employees happy.  However, I don't think that is the only reason for this bill.  By not paying employees time and half for their overtime hours, employers can make bigger profits.  Profits are important.  I get that completely.

Tracking Nightmare

Proponents of this bill say that it would give employees of private companies the same rights as employees in the public sector.  I work in the public sector and while I am part-time and do not get these benefits, many of my full-time colleagues do trade overtime hours for comp time.  It is a nightmare to keep track of.  The employee feels they worked 40 hours overtime, but our Director only has 36 hours down.  Someone is always feeling they are getting the short end of the stick.  There is always an issue when they want to take the comp time, some of them have accumulated months' worth of vacation time and comp time and if they ever took it, we would be way understaffed and would not have the budget to replace them for that time period.  If they ever took all that comp time, it would be a hardship to the library.

Who does the work?

I wonder if this bill states how and when employees can use this time?  Would they have to use it all by the end of the year?  Or would they be able to carry it over?  Would an employer have to pay them for the time if they were to leave the company?  Or would that be up to each individual employer?  How will employers handle employees who get several weeks of vacation and sick pay and now possibly up to 4 weeks of comp time...this could result in an employee having more than 2 months off per year...can their employer afford to give them that kind of time off?  Who would do their work?  How would it affect the company and the company's profitability if each employee took more than 2 months off per year, in other words more than 1/6 of the year off?  How would their work get done?

Our Experience

My husband is paid hourly.  We like it better than when he was paid salary because of the overtime.  Sometimes he works 40 hours in three or four days and then takes a long weekend.  Other times, he takes a Monday off and then works the following Saturday.  He is fortunate that his employer is very flexible.  I see where it could be neat to be able to work a lot of overtime and then take a week off...but, like I said, it's a nightmare to keep track of.

Jason's regular 40 hour wages cover our needs and some of our wants, the overtime pays for extras.  This fall, Jason got a lot of overtime after Hurricane Sandy, so when he had unexpected surgery in November, we actually had a lot of padding in our checking account and touched our savings very little.  When he returned to work, his overtime wages allowed us to replenish what we took out of savings quickly.  Right now, Jason's overtime is going toward remodeling our kitchen and saving for a vacation.

Re-writing the Fair Labor Act of 1938 is Dangerous

I know that the way the Family Time Flexibility Act is written it leaves the choice in the employees' hands of whether they want the time and a half wages or the comp time.  I try to see past all the hype and spin in every issue, I don't align myself with either the left or the right, I tend to take things issue by issue and research all sides, weigh the facts and think about my own position.  In this case, while I would love to believe this bill is truly designed to protect family time.  I believe conservatives are justifiably and correctly interested in creating jobs and strengthening our economy and I can not in good conscience believe that the purpose of this bill is solely to protect family time.
Unions are not perfect, there is a lot of corruption, but the alternative may be worse.
We have had several friends whose pay has been cut in the last few years.  Thankfully, Jason's pay has not been cut, but he did not have a wage increase for several years.  In 2008, his company, like many companies, put a hiring and wage freeze into place.  Some companies were also getting rid of top earners at that time--I sat with a friend at a homeschool field trip who was petrified because her husband's company was giving out pink slips and he had been there for 20 years and was a high earner.  Fortunately, Jason's company did not systematically cut top earners but they are not giving top wage earners pay increases, so more and more every year our family is dependent on time and a half overtime wages.

How are people supposed to save enough for retirement when they don't even get annual cost of living increases?  The same people who don't want to give pay increases want to do away with Social Security.  It is difficult for people who are not even getting cost of living increases to kiss the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have put into Social Security good-bye!  How are we supposed to save enough for retirement when every year our money gets stretched a little further?  And yet the average CEO commands 380% more than the average worker because the CEO takes risks.  But what if the CEO made 100% more or even 200% more--is that not enough compensation for the risk?  That extra 180% could "trickle down" to workers and may make the difference between being able to have enough to retire or more money to spend on goods and services which would drive profits up--but these days you are Socialist if you want workers to get better pay.  I wonder how long those of us who don't get cost of living increases will be able to afford goods and services and to support small businesses?  And what will happen when all these people who can't afford to save for retirement get too old too work?  Will they be on the street?  

I am afraid that rewriting the Fair Labor Act of 1938 is dangerous for American families and corporations.  The Family Time Flexibility Act could open the door to stop paying time and half over 40 hours a week for hourly employees.   Companies may be more profitable if they paid those people their regular wages over 40 hours, but what is going to happen when the middle class can no longer afford to pay for goods and services?  Without Jason's overtime we would not be able to afford to remodel our kitchen or go on vacation (thousands of dollars we are putting back in the economy) and I know a lot of other families who are reliant on time and a half for the "extras"--what happens when thousands of families, reliant on that overtime, can not afford goods and services?  Profits will go down.  Employers should take a lesson from Henry Ford, who paid his employees better than average so they could afford his cars...the end result: he sold more cars (and came up with the assembly line and 40 hour work weeks!).

Getting Ahead of the Game

If they got paid time and a half for those hours, they could take unpaid days off and still be ahead of the game!  As one of my friends said, they can take the time but they might not be able to afford to do anything with it.  Believe me, I understand that time with your kids is priceless and it doesn't matter if you go to Disney or sit and stare at dirt when you are together.  But if people get paid time and a half and take unpaid days off, they could possibly end up ahead of the game.  And if their employer is not okay with them taking the unpaid days, I would question how difficult it would be for them to use comp time.

The bottom line: I am terrified for our country.  Greed is part of human nature, it is what sets us apart from divine beings. Most of our politicians and corporate leaders are not above it and they have so much control and power, they vote themselves raises (in the case of politicians, with our tax dollars) while they take wages away from the middle class.  It is outrageous and destructive.