Being paid for actual hours you work seems basic, unless you have a choice to leave on time…

In a perfect world the government would not need to have rules covering who and under what circumstances should be paid overtime. But employers in general have a long history of squeezing everything they can out of workers and blackmailing them to work overtime hours for free. Not all employers do this, but in general…

The Obama administration has just handed down some new federal overtime rules that raise the income threshold of who must be paid overtime. I don’t know all the details and frankly don’t care, except it made me think about the general subject of overtime.

You’ll remember Scrooge, who said Bah! Humbug! to a day off for Christmas — and with pay! Indeed “rob a man of his money!” (that is the employer being robbed.)

Well, social custom and good will aside, I could almost see his point about being robbed, that is paying someone for not working.

But I cannot see any justification for not paying someone for working.

And then there is that argument over who is a manager, whose job is not just producing widgets, but overseeing others, and whether such a person is already paid a little extra and has more control over his or her own time (might even be able to show up late or leave early sometimes, as long as the management responsibilities are taken care of).

And when you are doing cerebral stuff, you just can’t shut off the widget machine — it might force you to put in a little more time, but you get a bigger salary and more perks — well supposedly.

But just designating someone a chief and not just an Indian (and no offense to Indians, American or those from the sub continent) to get out of paying more for more work is on its face wrong.

At the first small six-day-a-week community newspaper I worked on (owned by a chain), the big wigs from corporate came around to do a survey to find out what each individual’s job actually consisted of, and they glibly declared that on our small paper each reporter was an “editor” in practical terms. Now in the newspaper business as I knew it then, the term editor had many meanings with no clear designation of duties by itself. But in general it signified some authority and responsibility. Sounds like some kind of mid-level manager. The reason they were so glib is that they had come across an excuse to call everyone a chief and not pay overtime. We had to sign a statement each pay period that declared we did not work over 40 hours — we generally did. It was just a lie you were supposed to accept. Now having just come off of working in a wood products mill (factory work), I was not really complaining (at first anyway).

Sometimes we were required to do a ton of extra writing for special editions — all fluff stuff to make advertisers happy — but were told no overtime was authorized. But of course I can see an argument might be this ain’t digging ditches — it’s cerebral — it’s even fun, getting paid to write, just what you always wanted to do.

I worked at one newspaper where to make sure we did not work overtime and therefore qualify for mandatory overtime under the then current law, they actually made us leave (and we had no keys to get back in). But on some days, if there was extra to do — this place was also into those extra fluff editions — they would ask if anyone of us wanted to volunteer to work overtime — for nothing. There was an implied pressure there. Everyone stayed. I, however, did not stay at that place long. It was seemingly regimented more than the army. I think they wanted to get the most possible out of people but not pay a cent more than they had to. I suppose that is just good business, but not so good for creativity, I think.

Seems to me, though, in general, if you have a choice of whether to work overtime or not, then overtime pay might be in question, but when you are are forced to put in extra work (whether officially or just by custom or just to avoid getting canned or replaced) then you are owed extra money).

For actual managers or executives, considerably higher salaries and perks take the place of overtime pay.

But again, just calling someone a manager or part of management does not by itself make it so.

It is strange to me that some people who run businesses have this feeling of entitlement to free labor. They grouse that they do not work by the clock. But if you own a business, you own an asset that provides you or has the potential of providing you with considerably more than the standard hourly wage or salary. You put in the extra effort and make sacrifices and if things go well the reward is not being a wage slave.

But speaking of slavery, that was outlawed a long time ago, at least that was what I was taught in school.


All of the foregoing was based on the premise of a more or less 8 to 5 type job or shift work. There are all kinds of employment I guess that don’t necessarily fit into wage structure of calculations of such work. For example, for the past two decades and more now I have been an over-the-road truck driver. I don’t want to go into whether we are paid fairly or not — I mean we live in these trucks days (weeks) at a time and spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for loading and unloading. Our basic compensation is tied to miles covered. Safety concerns (along with lobbying efforts from competitors of other transportation modes) have prompted the authorities to tighten regulations on hours of service, and I understand there may be new rules concerning hourly pay on the horizon — but this post was not about that. And all that not withstanding or withstanding, I still stick with the notion that getting paid for work, rather than working for free is a basic right that does not or should not even require a written law.

“I want you to do extra work for me but I don’t want to pay you for it”. Does that sound right?










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