Monday, March 07, 2005

Santorum's Trojan Horse

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) is introducing a bill today which ostensibly would raise the minimum wage by $1.10, but upon closer examination it turns out that he is not really concerned with the plight of struggling American workers after all. According to the Economic Policy Institute (warning: PDF), the bill is in fact a trojan horse that actually assaults workers' rights.

For example, the bill eliminates the minimum wage protection granted by the Fair Labor Standards Act for all businesses with revenues less than $1,000,000. That is up from those with revenues of $500,000, thereby creating a loophole group of revenue earners between $500,000 and $1,000,000. In other words, while the new amendment might increase minimum wage for approximately 1.8 million workers, another 6.8 million workers working for businesses in this loophole group would lose their protection.

Furthermore, it eliminates some forms of overtime pay by making an 80-hour two-week work period the standard, so that a worker who works 50 hours one week and 30 the next would not receive overtime pay for the ten extra hours in the first week. This will impact construction workers severely. In addition, businesses will be permitted not to pay a regular wage to tipped employees such as restaurant wait staff, taxi drivers, hotel porters and cleaning staff. Finally, it will also excuse more than 5 million businesses from their violations of worker safety regulations.

Of course, what should one expect from a party that has publicly declared its opposition to the minimum wage protection altogether, as is the case in the Texas Republican Party Platform? See here for details. Also see Nathan Newman for further discussion of this issue.


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