Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

The GOP’s Assault on Low-Paid Working Moms


Nostalgia for the 90s is apparent in the House Republicans’ latest effort to win over women voters, especially young mothers. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., a mother of two, was tapped to introduce the misleadingly titled “Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013.” The bill is neither new in 2013 – the very same bill was first passed in the House in 1997 – nor does it provide working families with the flexibility they need to meet their children’s needs. Echoing tactics employed in the 1990s, Republicans are attacking Democratic colleagues who do not want to join them in this trip back to the future.

Roby’s claim that her experience as a working mom is behind her support for this legislation fails to note that she, like other professionals, is not actually covered by this bill. It applies only to hourly paid workers – nurse’s aides, check-out clerks, sales women, fast food workers, warehouse workers and others who rely on the 40-hour work week to give them time to spend with their kids and on overtime pay to make ends meet on their meager wages.

The legislation would have employees work unpaid hours beyond the 40-hour workweek and accrue as much as 160 hours of “comp time.” Its major effect would likely be to increase overtime hours for those who don’t want them and reduce pay for those who do.

Workers’ agreement to take comp time rather than pay for overtime hours is supposed to be voluntary. But anyone who has ever held one of these hourly-paid jobs knows that the employer holds all the cards. Refusing an employer’s offer of comp time instead of wages may mean your hours will be cut or that you will be more vulnerable to being laid off in an economic crunch.

The low-paid working moms covered by this legislation know it is not really about giving them more flexibility to choose between comp time and overtime pay. It’s about letting their employers ask them to work more than 40 hours without having to pay them for the extra time.

Republicans are right that working parents need the flexibility to stay home with a child with a raging fever or attend a school conference with their child’s teacher. Unfortunately, this comp time bill fails to address these very real needs. Instead, the bill lets employers decide when workers get to use their comp time. An employee who needs to stay home today with a sick child can be told to take their comp time next week or even later, at a time that is more convenient for the employer.

A better alternative is to pass legislation that allows workers to earn a few paid sick days a year so they can stay home from work for a day or two when they or their children come down with the flu. This would do far more to let working parents care for their kids than the rehashed comp time bill that House Republicans are promoting.

The comp time bill may not benefit workers, but it is certainly a boon for employers. It increases their flexibility in assigning work hours and cuts their costs. A low-paid working mom earning $10 an hour who accrues 160 hours of comp time in place of overtime pay is effectively making an interest-free loan of $1,600 to her employer. That’s a lot to ask of a mother who earns about $20,000 a year. Indeed, it’s a lot to ask any hourly paid worker to lend a month’s pay to their employer.

Legislators who want to stand up for working moms will not easily be misled into thinking that this misguided bill gives working families the flexibility they so badly need.

Eileen Appelbaum is a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

This article originally appeared on Economic Intelligence.


More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“It’s Only a Car!”
October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases