Letters To The Editor


October 05, 2003

Bush's proposal curbs overtime pay to millions

Unfortunately, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao gets the facts wrong about the administration's plans on overtime and the Senate's response ("Updating overtime," Opinion

Commentary, Sept. 30).

According to the Economic Policy Institute, 8 million people will lose their overtime pay if the administration pushes through its new rules. The International Union of Police Associations says half of all police officers would lose overtime pay. And nurses, firefighters and air traffic controllers also would lose pay.

These men and women work hard every day to serve our communities. We depend on them to save lives. They should be able to depend on a 40-hour work week and overtime pay to make ends meet.

I worked with my Senate colleagues on a bipartisan basis to pass overtime pay protection for all these workers. Our legislation (the Harkin Amendment) would stop the Labor Department from taking away overtime protections.

But it doesn't stop the agency from increasing the number of workers eligible for overtime. It doesn't prevent the agency from clarifying overtime rules.

At a time when millions of Americans are out of work, when our country is facing a crisis in nursing and when we owe so much to our first responders, I urge Ms. Chao to rethink the administration's proposal.

It is time to stand up for what America stands for - and that includes standing up for America's workers.

Barbara A. Mikulski


The writer represents Maryland in the U.S. Senate.

Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao's defense of the Bush administration's overtime proposal demonstrates a shocking disregard for accuracy. The administration proposal would take away overtime protection from 8 million workers. Many of them are union members, who could be affected immediately or during their next contract negotiations.

And despite Ms. Chao's attempts to muddle the issue, the only question being debated in Congress is whether the Bush administration should be allowed to take away overtime protection from workers who currently qualify.

The Bush administration is fiercely insisting on its right to take away eligibility for overtime pay, and has threatened to veto any legislation that protects overtime. But the Harkin Amendment would allow the administration to accomplish all of its stated objectives - including updating the overtime regulations and expanding coverage for low-income workers - as long as it does not restrict eligibility for overtime.

It appears that Ms. Chao is attempting to muddle the issue because the administration's real position - insisting on its right to take away overtime pay and protection - is so indefensible.

Richard Trumka


The writer is secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.

Republican charge rings very hollow

It is beyond absurd that the Republican National Committee has defended the apparent illegal leaking of the identity of a CIA operative by accusing Democrats of "scandal-mongering" ("GOP moves to stem leak damage," Oct. 2).

The problem with charging the Democrats with being scandal-mongers is that not long ago the Republicans launched an exhaustive, expensive and fruitless investigation of a harmless land deal called Whitewater that had occurred well before Bill Clinton became president.

Millions upon millions of taxpayers' dollars were wasted on a Republican witch hunt that failed to uncover any significant lawbreaking but was aimed directly at President Clinton and his wife.

Yet with this recent violation of national security, the Republican Party has refused to accept responsibility but instead has launched a misplaced, misguided offensive.

Steve Charing


Black history focus hides others' roles

As a taxpayer, I note reports in the Oct. 1 Sun of a government-supported $13 million black maritime history museum in Fells Point ("A museum's ship comes in") as well as a taxpayer-supported expansion of the Great Blacks in Wax museum on North Avenue ("Cummings pushes for funds for Blacks in Wax Museum").

These projects are being undertaken during construction of the African-American History and Culture Museum downtown, which also involves a hefty state subsidy.

Without commenting on the merits of this history, I believe these projects ignore the contributions of other individuals from other groups to support a politically correct agenda.

Terry McCormack


Homework harms quality of family life

Kevin Cowherd should count his blessings. Apparently he doesn't realize how lucky his son is not to have an hour or more of homework each night ("A remote chance kids will do more than 19 measly minutes of homework at night," Oct. 2).

Apparently he doesn't have to rush home from work, make dinner, take his son to practice for whatever sport he's playing, get home, wash dishes, make lunches for the next day, straighten the house, and, oh yeah, see if his son has finished his homework.

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