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Overtime Pay Charade

President Bush is an established enemy of the right to overtime protections. Now his administration has rammed through a regulation that would deny time-and-a-half pay to some 8 million workers — and hit public-sector workers particularly hard. The blow would be softened, the Labor Department claimed, by making another 1.3 million low-end workers eligible for overtime. But those workers already qualified for it based on their duties.

Worse, the Labor Department now is dispensing advice on how employers can avoid paying overtime to the low-wage workers it claims would be eligible for the extra money. In effect, Bush's bureaucrats are telling employers how to get around the new rule they've just created.

One way to get around paying overtime is through a "payroll adjustment" that converts workers' annual pay to an hourly rate and cuts it, with overtime figured in to equal the former salary. The result: more hours of work for the same pay. (Another end run, applicable to all hourly employees, would permit an employer to substitute military training for a college degree in determining who is not eligible for overtime.)

Among the beneficiaries of all this advice would be two top grocery-chain executives who just happen to be mega-fundraisers for Bush's re-election campaign: Steven A. Burd of Safeway; and Robert E. Zincke of Kroger's. 

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