CA Assembly Passes Union-Backed Overtime Bill

By Justin Torres | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

(CNS) – The California Assembly – under heavy pressure from unions – passed a bill last week that would reenact the state's overtime payment requirements, which some critics say will threaten "flex-time" initiatives that allow parents to spend more time at home.

The bill reverses decisions by judges appointed by former Republican Governor Pete Wilson. California was the first state to pass mandatory overtime legislation, almost 80 years ago.

Assembly Bill 60 passed after Democratic Governor Gray Davis and the Republican caucus in the assembly demanded extensive revisions to protect schedule employee-schedule flexibility and exempt certain key state industries.

But business groups and the California Chamber of Congress remain opposed to the bill, which goes to the state Senate for consideration. Davis has indicated that he will sign the bill if it is brought before him.

AB 60 requires an employer to pay any employee who works more than eight hours a day 1 \'bd times his hourly salary, and two times his salary for time worked over 12 hours.

Under the bill's "secret ballot" provision, employers may propose, and employees adopt by a two-thirds secret vote, alternative work weeks of up to 10 hours a day without triggering the overtime provisions.

The California Chamber of Congress has labeled the bill one of the "Ten Worst Bills" of the legislative year.

"AB 60 is improved but it still includes the two-thirds secret ballot," said Chamber spokesperson Kathy Fairbanks. "It's a take-away of alternative work weeks for non-union employees."

Women's groups and family organizations have questioned whether the bill threatens "flex-time" initiatives popular with working mothers.

"To mandate that employers pay time and a half if they work more than eight hours a day absolutely obliterates a woman's opportunity to take time off to spend with a sick child or elderly parent," Amy Holmes of the Independent Women's Forum told CNS.

But union organizers have lauded the bill for rolling back Wilson-era overtime revisions.

"Working families are putting in longer hours for paychecks that bring less home," said Tom Rankin, president of the California Labor Federation in a statement.

"In this downsized, part-time, temporary employment world, there's no excuse for corporations taking overtime pay away from people who work hard to earn it."