Article 43


Friday, December 09, 2011

Computer Professionals Update Act


No overtime for IT?
Lawmakers want to take away overtime pay for thousands of IT workers. What’s wrong with these people?

By Bill Snyder
December 8, 2011

Working until the job is done is the ETHOS OF MOST IT HANDS that I know or have collaborated with. If a server needs to be rebooted or a virus uprooted, people stick around to solve the problem. When they do, they deserve to be paid overtime. But a U.S. senator from the high-tech-rich state of North Carolina has a different idea. She wants to make thousands of IT workers ineligible for overtime pay, a move that would result in a substantial decrease in overall income for many employees and their families.

In case you assumed that the Republicans have a monopoly on antilabor legislation, think again. The COMPUTER PROFESSIONALS UPDATE ACT was proposed by a Democrat, Sen. Kay Hagan, whose state is home to a heavy concentration of technology-related companies, as well as financial services outfits, including Bank of America, that are huge employers of IT workers. (In what’s likely inadvertent humor, the bill is also referred to as the CPU Act.)

Hagan’s bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), which mandates that workers be paid time-and-half for work beyond 40 hours in a week—in some cases, beyond 8 hours in a day. There are already NUMEROUS EXEMPTIONS to that requirement, including salaried executives, professionals, and any IT worker “who is a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer, or other similarly skilled worker.” The current version of the FSLA goes on to specify that exempt-from-overtime jobs include “systems analysis techniques and procedures design, documentation, testing, creation, or modification of computer programs.”

Meet the CPU Act

But the CPU Act broadens that exemption so much it appears that any IT worker who is paid more than $27.63 an hour (and who isn’t?) would lose the right to overtime. Here’s what it says:

Any employee working in a computer or information technology occupation (including, but not limited to, work related to computers, information systems, components, networks, software, hardware, databases, security, Internet, intranet, or websites) as an analyst, programmer, engineer, designer, developer, administrator, or other similarly skilled worker, whose primary duty is

(A) the application of systems, network, or database analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine or modify hardware, software, network, database, or system functional specifications; or

(B) the design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing, securing, configuration, integration, debugging, modification of computer or information technology, or enabling continuity of systems and applications; ...

Hagan, by the way, isn’t a senator likely to be worthy of a profile in courage. Although smoking kills thousands of Americans every year, she opposed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the FDA the power to regulate smoking. (It was sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama.) North Carolina, of course, has a huge tobacco industry, and Hagan’s hometown of Greensboro is the headquarters of Lorillard Tobacco. Hagan’s priorities are so obvious that I won’t bother to spell them out.

A second Democrat, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, is the co-sponsor along with two Republicans, Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

The motivation: Employers want to cut costs

The CPU Act is being discussed in Congress just as the JOBS PICTURE FOR IT WORKERS has started to improve. With hiring on the upswing, employers want to keep costs as low as possible, and when jobs can’t be outsourced, some are reluctant to provide the same level of pay and benefits they offered in the past.

Wages for most Americans have either declined or stayed flat for some time. Working overtime can be arduous, particularly when it is required, but it is an important and expected part of the income stream for many families. If overtime pay goes away, those workers in effect got their pay cut.

Because most IT workers are not members of a union (and DON’T SEEM TO WANT TO UNIONIZE), it isn’t clear who’s fighting the bill. The AFL-CIO opposes it, but I don’t know if the organization is putting real muscle into the effort. Paul E. Almeida, president of the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees, did send a letter to Congress, saying, “The same companies that send work offshore and BRING LOW-PAID WORKERS to the U.S. on H-1B VISAS now want to pay U.S. workers less in the U.S.”

He also noted in an article on the union’s website that “information technology companies are focused on cutting pay for the PEOPLE WHO WORK for them. If their effort succeeds, it will suggest to every other industry that the time is now to gut FLSA for every covered private-sector worker.”

Almeida is right. There’s a well-organized movement afoot to blame workers in both the public and private sector for a recession caused in large part by the greedy and irresponsible actions of a small minority of corporations and individuals.

At least one major antilabor law firm, is cheering the CPU Act—and I bet there are more. The Wage & Hour Defense blog of Epstein, Becker & Green, Douglas Weiner and Meg Thering puts it this way: “Unlike much of the other legislation affecting employers that has been proposed or passed this year, the CPU Act would make business easier for employers and decrease the risk of employee misclassification lawsuits. If the proposed legislation passes, employers would be able to classify more employees as exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA. This would be a welcome change from the persistent drum beat of enhanced enforcement initiatives announced by government agencies and upticks in class and collective actions this year.”

If you want to keep your overtime pay and stop this nonsense from spreading to others in the workforce, there’s no better time to let your representatives know how you feel and then vote accordingly. And don’t underestimate the power of protest. Earlier this year, we saw the rapacious banks scurry away from plans to impose new debit fees on users after Congress forced them to charge merchants less. Additionally, the Occupy Wall Street protests have refocused the politicians on the growing divide between corporations, whose income continues to grow, and most people, whose income has not. Maybe if IT occupied the data center, it might escape losing its overtime.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them HERE so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at . Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.



Posted by Elvis on 12/09/11 •
Section American Solidarity • Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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