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Published: 10/6/2004

Downtown Toledo rally protests new rules on overtime

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Marchers assemble outside the building that houses the Toledo offices of the federal wages and hours bureau. Marchers assemble outside the building that houses the Toledo offices of the federal wages and hours bureau.
ZAPOTOSKY / BLADE Enlarge

More than 50 workers, labor leaders, and retirees rallied in downtown Toledo yesterday to protest changes in overtime regulations that could eliminate additional pay for nurses, assistant store managers, chefs, and other skilled and white-collar employees.

Although they said they know of no local hospitals, stores, or other businesses that have eliminated overtime pay under the new regulations, which went into effect Aug. 23, some at the AFL-CIO demonstration said the day could come.

The AFL-CIO held rallies yesterday in various cities nationwide, including six in Ohio. Part of the reason for the gatherings was to deliver thousands of postcards signed by people protesting the changes to local offices of the Labor Department.

The cards were rebuffed at headquarters in Washington.

The Toledo marchers were on the sidewalk in front of the Ohio Building, 420 Madison Ave., which houses the offices of the wage and hours bureau of the U.S. Labor Department.

Jan Janes, a retired Medical College of Ohio nurse, said it will be hard to keep nursing jobs filled - perhaps compromising patient care - if nurses are forced to work additional hours for no extra pay.

"We already have a nursing shortage," Ms. Janes said. "They're going to be too tired to take care of their patients."

And although overtime for unionized workers is protected under existing contracts, labor negotiators could be confronted with calls for such concessions because competitors are benefiting from the new regulations, said Bob Gilbert, a union representative and organizer for United Food & Commercial Workers Local 911. "The union employers will say that in order to compete, they'll need the same cuts," he said.

Said George Tucker, executive secretary of the Toledo area AFL-CIO: "Our concern is we feel this is just the tip of the iceberg."

Under the new regulations, those who make less than $23,660 a year, nearly triple the former base amount, must be paid overtime.

Yet those making more than $23,660 a year who regularly have at least one professional or administrative responsibility could be denied overtime , along with those paid more than $100,000 a year.

The AFL-CIO and others are pushing for a repeal of the new regulations. President Bush has said he will veto any bill that Congress passes.

The Labor Department estimates 11.6 million Americans receive overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week. Estimates on the number who will lose their overtime eligibility vary from 107,000 to 6 million, and estimates of the number of workers who now could become eligible range from very few to 1.3 million.

Locally, The Andersons Inc. of Maumee and ProMedica Health System of Toledo are among those that haven't adjusted overtime eligibility for employees since the regulation changes, officials said.

The Andersons has about 3,000 employees; ProMedica has 15,000.

St. Luke's Hospital in Maumee, meanwhile, is studying whether changes need to be made, said Kathleen Connell, spokesman. The hospital has 1,600 employees.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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