Legislators Fight Overtime "Loophole"

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You might expect Michigan truckers like Jim Irwin to want overtime pay for their 10-plus hour shifts.

"We're already working it. It'd be nice to get paid for it," Irwin said.

But some say if truckers get that overtime, there could be fewer of them.

"If we don't fix this, a lot of jobs are going to leave Michigan," Rep. Rick Jones (R - Grand Ledge) said Tuesday.

Jones is talking about what he sees as an indirect consequence of Michigan's coming minimum wage increase.

Because the new state minimum wage will be higher than the federal minimum, exemptions allowing truckers, nurses and others to work shifts longer than eight hours without overtime will go away.

And since hospitals, for example, aren't likely to want to pay overtime for nurses, it could mean eight hour shifts instead of the usual 12.

That idea doesn't sit well with the Michigan Nurses Assocation.

"They have enjoyed their flexible work schedules and have enjoyed that for their entire careers...it was a career draw and now they're not going to be able to do that," said Meghan Swain, an MNA legislative policy associate.

To combat the problems they say will be caused by the mandatory overtime, Republicans in the state legislature passed a bill effectively eliminating it in a number of different fields.

Those who oppose the new plan say they know some workers, like truckers, might have to work the long hours and forego the overtime. But they say others who deserve the overtime will be left out.

"An assistant manager at a fast-food restaurant with income less than 24 thousand dollars a year under federal law, is not eligible for overtime pay. Movie theater employees, meachanics, people caring for vulnerable children at home," Sen. Mark Schauer (D - Battle Creek) said, listing other workers he says would be affected.

The plan passed the senate and the house along party lines. Now legislators say it's up to Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) to determine how many hours nurses, salesmen and truckers like Irwin will likely work.

A spokeswoman for Granholm says she doesn't see the bill as necessary, but wouldn't say whether the governor plans to veto it.