Staff Reporter

Susan Goldsberry, a single mother of four and a sheet metal worker from Burbank, believes that the state's repeal of the daily overtime law could mean financial disaster for her family.

"If they cancel the eight-hour overtime pay, I have really no recourse and no way to change things to get anything saved for the future," Goldsberry said. "That's like my savings account."

But for Joseph Barnum, a Monterey Park machinist, the change means that he can shuffle his work hours for personal reasons without losing any pay.

"If I wanted to take a day off Friday, I would work 10 hours a day for four days," Barnum said. "Sometimes I need to go to a doctor or a dentist, so I take time off that day. So I work 10 hours (another day) to make it up."

The two arguments typified last week's debate that followed the state Industrial Welfare Commission's decision to scrap a 79-year-old law requiring employers to pay hourly workers time-and-half for more than eight hours worked in a day.

Although employees still earn overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a week, they would receive only normal hourly pay even if they work 12 or more hours in a day.

Business groups argued that the new flexibility would be good for employers and workers that workers could take time off for personal reasons and then make up the hours later.

"Employees are frequently asking employers to rearrange their work schedule," said Willie Washington, director of human resources for the California Manufacturers Association. "We can't do any of those things under the current law without either breaking the law or having to pay overtime to compensate the employee."

But the CMA and other groups said there was a more important reason to bring California's overtime laws in line with 47 other states and the federal government: So that the state's businesses can remain competitive.

In other states, Washington said, factories operating around-the-clock can have employees work 12-hour days necessitating only one shift change during the day, as opposed to three in California.

Factories with only one shift change have higher productivity, Washington said, because there is greater continuity in production, less time wasted when workers pass on production information to the next shift's workers, and fewer parking hassles as one shift leaves and another arrives.


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