Undercutting hard workers

Published: Saturday, January 17, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 11:21 p.m.

More often than not, some letter writer expresses the opinion that poor people deserve their fate because they don't work hard enough. The assumption is that if one works hard enough, then any goal can be achieved. I have seen first-hand that hard work is not inevitably fairly rewarded.

Under new rules expected to be finalized early this year, about 1.3 million low-income workers who work full time (40 hours per week) would qualify for time and a half if they work more than 40 hours each week. Sounds fair, right? Apparently not to the Labor Department which is busily advising employers on how to avoid paying overtime to low-income workers.

One handy option suggested by the Labor Department is to cut the worker's hourly pay so that the added overtime may count for very little, if anything. So, even though these low-earning workers may want to work more (and earn more), the cards are stacked against them. Meanwhile, any extra hours worked will benefit management and result in higher pay and bigger bonuses for those at the top.

As we read all the glowing reports of how well the economy is doing, we also take note that the big winners during the holiday season were the high-end retailers like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, while retailers like Wal-Mart had only a fair holiday season. The economy is definitely improving for the rich in America, but the gulf between those at the top and those at the bottom is growing at a rapid pace.

Mary Virginia Graham


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