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Defending Overtime
Pay and Paid Time-Off


Issues Briefing


The U.S. National Health Insurance Act (HR 676)

The Battle to Defend Good Jobs

Defending Overtime Pay and Paid Time-Off

Restoring Our Right to Join a Union 

Iraq Occupation and the Federal Budget Disaster

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Big business violently opposed the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 1938, almost without exception. The FLSA provides for the payment of overtime pay for most workers after 40 hours of work in any seven-day period. With the election of a Republican majority in the House of Representatives in 1994, corporate lobbyists began the effort to undermine and completely repeal overtime pay.

The initial scheme was known as the "comp-time" or "flex-time" scheme, where workers would be promised time off work at a later date rather than being paid time-and-a-half. This scheme undermines overtime pay and would force workers to work overtime in order to "earn" vacation, sick, and personal leave. Comp-time legislation was defeated in the House by narrow margins in 1996, 1997, and 1998.


During the current Congress, big business decided to shift gears as they continued their campaign against overtime pay. Comp-time bills stalled during 2003 (HR1119/S319) for lack of support. Realizing this, big business lobbyists requested the Bush Administration to unilaterally reclassify who is, and who is not, eligible for overtime pay. A tremendous battle to stop this backdoor scheme eventually failed.

The Labor Department is busy crafting the new regulations, expected to be introduced in March 2004. Up to eight million professional, technical, computer, sales, medical, and public safety workers are likely to lose their right to overtime pay they could be forced to work after 40 hours for free! Many companies are working intimately with the Bush Labor Department to craft the shape of this bureaucratic repeal.


UE was perhaps the first union to point out the multiple dangers of this attack. During the 1990s most of the labor movement failed to recognize that this was a full-blown corporate attack on overtime pay and paid time-off. UE rank-and-file members worked hard to stop the comp-time bills as well as the unilateral repeal scheme recently adopted. We do not accept this as a final outcome, however. The Labor Department revisions must be rolled back, and the comp-time bills must still be defeated when they come up again during the current session of Congress.


  • Many working people depend on overtime pay to make ends meet, since wage increases have not nearly kept pace with inflation.
  • Unionized workers are protected from the comp-time or repeal attack for the duration of the contract so long as their union contract specifies overtime after at least 40 hours in one week.
  • If comp-time becomes law, every union negotiation will see employers demand an end to over- time payment and a conversion to the bogus comp-time set-up.
  • Unorganized workers would be devastated by the comp-time scheme - bosses would force them to work overtime in order to "earn" their vacation, sick, and personal leave time.
  • These attacks are being promoted by big business, who have been working hand-in-glove with the Republican Congressional majority to achieve their goal.

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