The Issues: Overtime Pay

Overtime, Work Time, Workers, Clock

CBS News continues an election-year series titled "What Does It Mean To You?" focused on where the presidential candidates stand on major issues and how a vote for one or the other candidate might affect average people's lives.

In this report, CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers compares the Bush and Kerry positions on new federal overtime regulations.

After 14 years working behind the barrels on Michigan road projects, Rick Brower figures he's earned his job as an inspection team leader.

"I've worked hard to get where I'm at, and I'm very proud of it," says Brower.

So he was understandably concerned when he heard that under new federal overtime regulations, his job could someday be re-interpreted as supervisory and he might lose eligibility for the 20 to 30 hours of overtime he averages per paycheck.

"I couldn't do without it," he says. "I'd have to get a second job or something if I couldn't have overtime."

Or maybe even consider a demotion to a job that is eligible for overtime.

So when the candidates talk about overtime and labor laws, they get his attention.

He says the overtime issue could "very well affect my vote."

Ever since last August, when the first major overtime revisions since 1975 went into effect, the changes have been a magnet for conflicting campaign claims.

"The labor laws ought to be family friendly," President Bush said earlier this month. "The labor laws ought to recognize that times have changed."

Mr. Bush says the changes will guarantee overtime for 1.3 million lower-income white-collar workers. And while under the new rules, others with high incomes may lose overtime, first responders like police officers and firefighters will automatically qualify.

John Kerry came out swinging at the new rules from the beginning, saying as soon as he's elected, he'll reverse rules because his estimates indicate 6 million American workers could lose out.

"These folks want to take America backwards and cut overtime pay," Kerry has said. "Not in my America, we're not going to cut overtime pay."

Brower's overtime is still coming, and his union is negotiating to keep it that way. So for now, he can only wait to see what happens down the road.

"You're not sure what people are saying, what they mean, and you find out after the election sometimes what they really meant," says Brower.

The one thing he knows for sure is, for him, it all boils down to a pretty simple premise: "If you work the time, you should be paid for it."