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Feeling confused about new overtime regulations

Sun Advocate community editor

If you are like me, I am finding it harder and harder to come up with what the truth is on just about any subject these days. It would seem that in this age of vast media coverage and endless debate information available on the internet, one could have all the information one needs to create a well informed opinion on just about anything.

But instead, I have found that the large amount of printed material and screen stuff I can find on my computer on just about any subject just confuses me.

Maybe it's something in the water, or maybe I am just getting too old to sort through all of it, but I am finding it very irritating that I can't seem to make up my mind about certain things anymore.

It used to be one side of an issue would place their facts on the table and then the other side did the same. Sure there were conflicting claims, but I could usually decipher which side my opinion would come down on, based on facts.

Now I find myself developing positions on issues not on facts, but on which side seems to have the least hidden agendas on a matter.

Take the changes in overtime laws that went into effect on Monday. The Department of Labor says that it would only negatively affect 107,000 workers, while it would strengthen overtime pay regulations for many workers who have in the past been declared exempt from overtime.

Labor groups, on the other hand, say that it could cut 6 million workers overtime.

Like everyone, I often don't like change, especially when the changes are not a clear cut win for me and mine. Personally, even though for years I belonged and was an officer in an employees association (a step just below a full fledged union) I don't often believe much of what organized labor says in many subjects.

On the other hand I have generally believed the Department of Labor when they came out with statements of "fact", and for that matter most other government departments with the exception of the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency. And of course I believe what the IRS says. I mean what more trustworthy government organization is there than the IRS?

Recently I have found myself getting back into my 1960's mode of questioning everything and trusting no one. That's what reporters and editors are supposed to do, but over the years I had mellowed. But there is nothing that stirs my soul like a threat to my pay scale. That is particularly true when laws that are passed about what I might get paid are enacted by a Congress that seems to head in a different direction every day and are proposed by a president who often can't express himself clearly in English, who seems to have lied to the public about the reasons for going to war with Iraq and whose every move seems to benefit big business.

Proponents of the changes say that for many workers, whom in the past employers claimed were "management" and exempt from overtime, and who made under $26,600 per year, the overtime will be a welcome addition to their income. However for many more workers, it could be a return to the days of 50 or 60 hour work weeks based on salaries compensated at only the regular hourly rate.

One of the most interesting examples of the elimination of overtime pay could take place in the ranks of one of our most precious and rare resources: registered nurses. Ask anyone in the medical field and they will tell you that the nursing shortage is not getting any better, but worse. It makes us common citizens feel all warm and fuzzy knowing the next time we go to the hospital and we are laying there in a bed that the person supervising the person taking care of us is now not only being worked to death ( as most presently are already) but on top of that are now not making any extra money to handle their duties past a reasonable number of hours in the day.

I once worked for an organization where I was in the labor force and an integral part of the employees association. Then I was promoted to management, and got a big raise. However, when I started looking at my actual hours verses dollars made, I didn't get a raise. I was making more money to be a foot soldier than as the general, largely because of overtime pay.

It always seemed so simple to me: you work over eight hours a day or 40 hours per week and you got paid extra per hour. Now employers are going to have the option to "interpret" the laws as it stands with many kinds of employees.

Most employers are fair and want the best for their employees. But when it comes to the bottom line, the rules should never be left up to someones whim.

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