Sunday, August 29


Last night I was Googling to get my husband info about the recent changes in overtime pay policy. I couldn't believe what a lack of media coverage there was on this crucial topic. Why have the media largely ignored what should be labeled as "The biggest paycut in U.S. history"?

On August 23, the Bush Administration's Department of Labor eliminated the right to time-and-a-half pay for overtime work for millions of Americans in what amounted to the biggest pay cut in American history. The facts that should have made that statement a headline in every paper in the country were easily obtainable. Reporters had had months in which to review the changes. Experts had written helpful analyses. The specific ways in which various categories of workers were being stripped of their rights would have been no secret to a sixth grader with internet access writing a report for school.

And if our national media couldn't take the time to read the rule changes, the goals of the Department of Labor and other parties involved had been made abundantly clear. The DOL had published advice to employers on how to avoid paying overtime. Both houses of Congress had passed an amendment to prevent the new changes from stripping workers of overtime pay, but a conference committee under Republican leadership had removed that measure. Business groups supported the changes. Labor unions opposed them. And the Bush Administration had spent four years building a solid record of reducing worker rights and of lying about its actions.

For the media to take seriously Bush Administration claims that these changes would benefit workers would require not only a strict avoidance of research, but also the assumption that the administration was as likely as workers' organizations to make honest claims about what would help workers. Of course, the media made this assumption, illustrating a fundamental problem with contemporary journalism. Reporters believe they cannot arbitrate between competing views and that they must give extra deference to the government. As a result, whether or not they do their own research, they do not report on what they learn.


Post a Comment

<< Home