Rall writes for a generation unjustly maligned as a pack
of lazy slackers. He voices Generation X's frustration
and resentment at the excesses of the baby boomers who've
left a spent America in their mammoth wake. Ted's irreverent
attitude and deft use of satire combine to make his work
as fun to read as it is thought-provoking. And Ted's ability
to connect with current culture gives his writing an of-the-moment
perspective that is edgy and sharp.
INDIGNITY OF LABOR
Great American Overtime Heist Revs Up
YORK -- "Lord, I am so tired!
long can this go on?"
Devo, "Working in a Coalmine," 1980
Al Gore and George W. Bush stuff newsprint and airwaves
with stormy debates over school prayer, subliminal advertising,
and when and how school prayer and subliminal advertising
should be debated, congressional Democrats and Republicans
and the president of the United States are quietly conspiring
to stab you, the American worker, in the back of your
won't hear about this on talk radio. You won't read about
it on the editorial page. And the politicians sure aren't
talking about it, because they're all in on it together,
quietly sucking up to their corporate buddies while sticking
it to the rest of us.
what's up: Employers spent the ersatz microboom of the
'80s and the megarecession of the early '90s laying off
every worker who wasn't nailed down. But when the economy
started to recover six years ago, they didn't do what
you or I would do -- hire back the layoff victims. Instead
these clever scum dumped the extra work on their smaller
workforces and pocketed the profits, driving up the stock
market while the vast majority of employees busily counted
their 3 percent annual raises between shifts.
the new-tech economy created a big labor shortage, but
the bosses still got away with keeping salaries stagnant.
They farmed out jobs overseas through free-trade agreements
and replaced staffers with zero-benefit full-time pseudotemps
and faux independent contractors. It also doesn't hurt
that virtually none of the new dot-com workers have union
the truly spectacular CEO profits of the '90s came from
a loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The
law requires that employers pay workers time-and-a-half
for each hour worked over 40 hours per week, but makes
an exception for salaried managerial professionals. Sixty
percent of the jobs created during the '90s are officially
classified as white-collar managers and professionals.
Of course, hardly any of them actually qualify as white-collar
in any respect other than working in an office and possibly
being required to wear suits at work. Rather than tell
other employees what to do, they're high-tech drones with
no more autonomy than an assembly-line worker. Calling
these people manager-pros, however, allows their employers
to work them 50, 60 and 70 hours a week without paying
them a cent to ruin their marriages and alienate their
recent years, however, courts have repeatedly ruled that
employers are breaking the law when they chintz on overtime
by calling all of their workers managers. So your elected
representatives in Washington have come up with a cynical
solution to keep their golfing buddies out of prison:
Rather than enforce the existing law, they've proposed
amendments to a pending $1-an-hour minimum wage increase
bill that would define everyone from computer network
analysts to sales clerks to funeral directors as managers
ineligible for overtime pay. There's also an intentionally
complicated proposal to let your boss slash your regular
pay and make up the difference in bonuses, with the result
that your overtime would be based on the new lower wage.
lest you be unaware of this, workers in all 50 states
can be fired for refusing to work overtime. Your boss
can make you work the next 100 hours in a row, and there's
nothing you can do about it but quit.
recently, paying overtime at a 150 percent rate provided
a strong financial inducement to hire more people. If
the bills currently pending pass -- and the smart money
says they will -- overtime work will be free to employers.
Look forward to the weird spectacle of an economic boom
during which corporations lay off tens of thousands of
people; more and more corporations will have fewer and
fewer remaining employees to turn into double-time slaves.
who's going to stop these evil bastards from legally stealing
me! I'm too busy working.
Rall, a cartoonist and columnist for Universal Press Syndicate,
is author of the forthcoming "Search and Destroy:
Cartoons by Ted Rall.")