Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen: “Today was one of the saddest days the House of Representatives has probably ever seen.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) spoke on the U.S. House floor about the House passage of HR 1406, which eliminates the 40-hour workweek. The measure, designed to drive down earnings for working Americans to inflate corporate profits, was passed with support from every Republican member of Congress from Tennessee — U.S. Reps. Phil Roe (TN-01), Jimmy Duncan (TN-02), Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03), Scott DesJarlais (TN-04), Diane Black (TN-06), Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) and Stephen Fincher (TN-08).

Democratic Reps. Jim Cooper (TN-05) and Cohen both voted against the bill which passed 223-204 mostly on party lines.

The “Pay Working Families Less Act,” which Republicans tried to call the “Working Families Flexibility Act,” would cheat workers out of overtime pay, with no guarantee of paid vacation days when employees need to use them, and give working families less flexibility, not more.

While House Republicans advertise the bill as aiming to help working families, independent evaluations have found that the bill will actually hurt them by undermining overtime pay and giving workers little flexibility.

The nonpartisan National Partnership for Women and Families finds that “The mis-named Working Families Flexibility Act will mean a pay cut for workers without any guaranteed flexibility or time off” and that the proposal “erodes the basic guarantees of the Fair Labor Standards Act: fair pay for overtime work and time off from work.”

A senior economist for the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes, “Its major effect would be to hamstring workers — likely increasing overtime hours for those who don’t want them and cutting pay for those who do.”

Instead of working to expand the middle class with reforms that reward hard work, this bill drives down pay and rolls back workers’ benefits. Republicans have entered the American worker in a global race to the bottom. The only winner is big corporate special interests.

Here’s more on the “Pay Working Families Less Act” from Congressman Cohen’s office: What this bill really means is more work and less pay for workers, not flexibility:

  • Workers will not get paid for hours that exceed 40 hours per week. That pay will instead go into an employer-controlled pot to be paid later.
  • An employer can refuse to allow a worker to take time off to deal with a family member or attend a parent-teacher conference. This is not real flexibility for workers.
  • Employers could schedule excessive overtime hours and only offer overtime work to workers who agree to take comp time instead of overtime wages.
  • Since unused comp time will not be paid to workers until the end of the year, this amounts to an interest-free loan out of workers’ pockets to the employer.


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