Senator Tom Harkin today successfully led an effort to get the Senate to vote to block new overtime pay rules President Bush has proposed. The rules would limit the number of workers who qualify for time-and-a-half overtime pay once they’ve worked a 40 hour week. Harkin spoke to reporters outside the Senate after the vote. Harkin says “it’s a great day” and a “real shot in the arm for millions of Americans…especially women” because Harkin says women would have been the first ones hit by the proposed rules since the overtime rules would have hit female-dominated professions like nursing hard.Harkin says the Senate vote sent a message to President Bush, a signal that the Bush Administration “can’t just run roughshod over workers’ rights in this country” and can’t “under the cover of darkness” propose changes that would take away rights that have been “enshrined” in law since 1938. Labor unions were among those in Harkin’s corner, and Iowa Federation of Labor president Mark Smith is praising the Democratic Senator. Smith says Harkin led the charge on the issue. Smith was among Iowa union activists who telephoned and e-mailed Iowa’s other Senator, Republican Charles Grassley, to urge him to vote for Harkin’s amendment on overtime pay. Smith says Grassley’s “no” vote was a “slap in the face to hardworking Iowans…particularly in hard economic times.” Unions said up to eight million Americans would be affected by the overtime changes, but Republican Senators said the rules hadn’t even been written yet, and would probably apply to just 800-thousand. The vote on Harkin’s amendment was 54-45 and came during debate on a bill that provides federal money for labor, health and education programs. All four Democratic presidential candidates who are Senators arranged their schedules so they could be present for the vote — and they all voted to block the rules. The future of those proposed rules is in doubt, since the House already voted to O.K. them, and the matter must be debated in a conference committee made up of a few House and Senate members.
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