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On Monday, August 23, the Biggest Pay Cut in American History Went into Effect

President Bush's Executive Order will re-define the terms of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which stipulates overtime pay for more than 40 hours' work in a week. None of the protests took place in North Texas, but the Dallas AFL-CIO worked to publicize the problem. Financial Secretary-Treasurer Jim McCasland was interviewed by Channel 8. Juan Gomez spoke out in extended Spanish language coverage on Channel 39. Newscasters gave confusing numbers from the Bush Administration that do not include people who are eligible for overtime pay, but do not work any overtime because their employers found it too expensive before the new regulations went into effect.

The National AFL-CIO estimates that 6,000,000 Americans will lose the right to collect time-and-a-half pay when their employer requires longer hours.

A moment's reflection will show that employers will take advantage of Bush's action to re-define many workers' rights. When employees fall into the "exempt" category, they can be forced to work longer hours at straight-time pay. Consequently, employers will increase layoffs in order to save on insurance benefits and/or other fixed costs of keeping people on their payroll. The result will be even more unemployment and even more pressure for lower wages in America.

Instead of decreasing legal fights, as claimed by the Administration, the executive order will greatly increase litigation as employers aggressively cut down on payroll costs and their more knowledgeable employees fight back.

Most of the AFL-CIO's affiliated members will not be immediately affected, as their union contracts will supersede the new national regulations. However, future union contracts will be under more pressure to take away the rights of workers to decent jobs. People who have no union contracts may not even know whether they are "exempt" or entitled to overtime pay, because the Fair Labor Standards Act made it uneconomical for their bosses to force them to work longer hours. Many workers will find out for the first time, after August 23, how important the 1938 law has been to protecting the conditions of their employment.

The American labor movement has fought proudly for shorter hours and better working conditions throughout its existence. We lament the new executive order, and we rally behind the legislators who have tried, and are continuing to try, to stop it. We stand in solidarity with all the American workers who are affected. The National AFL-CIO has created a special web site, http://www.unionvoice.org/ct/ad1L1sS1Nc13/. Through the program, "Ask a Lawyer from Working America," a labor lawyer with expertise in wage and hour laws is available for questions via the Internet.

In our Metroplex, union people stand in solidarity against the executive order that will rip away workers rights and depress our local economy.Got any important event that needs publicizing?

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