House Transportation Bill ‘Technical Correction’ Would Strip Workers of Pay Protections!

Dear Commons Community,

A few additional words in a House transportation bill would strip several thousand workers of a minimum wage and overtime protection.  The Huffington Post is reporting that:

“Listed in the bill under the heading “Technical Correction,” provision 6602 would exempt several companies who transport rail workers from their obligations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the 1938 law that guarantees basic worker rights. The carve-out would allow a handful of boutique contractors to pay no overtime to their drivers who haul rail workers between worksites, often driving long distances of 300 miles or more…

It’s outrageous that House Republicans are trying to take away overtime protections for a class of workers at the behest of a special interest,” Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) said of the provision in a statement to HuffPost. “These workers deserve the right to overtime pay. It’s not only a matter of fairness, but also a matter of public safety.”

Earnings for rail-crew drivers often work out to little more than minimum wage, and many drivers must remain on-call for long stretches…

Jim Stem, legislative director at the United Transportation Union, said he just recently became aware of the provision’s implications, given that the bill would merely tweak a few words in existing law. He called the provision a giveway to contractors in the rail industry. “This is an earmark for a handful of wealthy people who own these companies. This is a windfall.”

This is why we have the Occupy Wall Street movement.  It is not a protest against rich people and corporations but a protest against those who use their wealth to corrupt the political system for their own benefit.



One comment

  1. I’m just completing my 7th year of working for one of the transportation companies targeted by Provision 6602.

    If 6602 is adopted for OTR drivers and not “Yard Drivers”, it will be a great financial benefit for the OTR drivers.

    Background: two class action lawsuits were won by drivers of these companies in the past couple of years. After paying out settlements, the companies changed their scheduling practices to ensure that no OTR drivers worked over 32 hours in a week.

    OTR drivers work “on call” (just like every railroad engineer and conductor) and are paid a rate for the miles driven and waiting time during the trip. A typical day for me would be to make myself available by calling Dispatch at my scheduled time and then waiting. I may wait two hours and then get a 100 mile trip ($25-30) that takes two hours. I would then wait my turn again and three hours later get a 300 mile trip ($75-85) that takes 5.5 hours. I would then tell Dispatch that I was done for the day. Adding up the numbers you see that I was available for 12.5 hours that day and drove for 7.5. We were allowed to work a six day week (again, just like the railroaders) and if a driver could average 400 miles per day (a big if – a slow day was often only one 100 mile trip), he could earn about $30,000 a year. Our management was fair and getting off early, starting late or getting extra time off was rarely a problem. We were never coerced into driving more hours than we felt we were capable of handling safely. The Branch Mgr. who hired me gave me the two Magic Words. Simply saying, “I’m tired” on the recorded phone line to Dispatch guaranteed that you could not be called again for 8 hours.

    Now management only allows 5 day schedules and locks OTR drivers out of the computer after they have driven 32 hours in a week. The $30,000 fulltime job is gone and OTR drivers are now lucky to make $200 per week ($10,000/year). Before the lawsuits and management reactions to them, my branch office had 24 fulltime and 3 parttime OTR drivers to split the mileage pie. Today there are 62 fulltime OTR drivers splitting the same pie and none can work more than 32 hours per week.

    “Yard Drivers” work a scheduled 8 hours, 5 days per week. They earn overtime over 8 hours in a day. The company has always tried to avoid overtime with Yard Drivers (what company doesn’t?) and has since crosstrained some OTR drivers to cover Yard absences. A straight 40 hour week at an hourly rate in a Yard is equal to a 1500 mile week on the road but in 5 days of work rather than 6.

    Of the 27 OTR drivers mentioned above, 11 of us (with high seniority – we are a Union shop) moved to Yard jobs as a 1500 mile equivalent paycheck is now double or triple what one of the 62 current OTR drivers can earn. There is now a huge turnover in OTR drivers and safety issues have arisen. If 6602 passes, I and many of my fellow former OTR drivers will go back to the joys of the open road and the excitement of traveling in all four directions of the compass rather than hauling crews on 1 or 2 mile local trips in the same area 40 hours per week.