|SAN ANTONIO, May 13 - Feeding a family. Paying our bills. Making sure our kids have what they need. For most of us, those are the core things we worry about each month and they all involve money.
However, the “Working Families Flexibility Act” recently passed by the majority in the U.S. House and on its way to the U.S. Senate does nothing for families who struggle to make ends meet. It fails to recognize that people usually work overtime because they need the money.
No matter how you slice it, you can't feed a family with time off from work. Every hour of work matters to a family's bottom line. It is a factor in food, clothing, and keeping a roof over your head.
The legislation essentially ends overtime pay by allowing an employer to give you time off instead. Interestingly, supporters say it gives working mothers more flexibility because a working mother could have the option of spending that time at home. That's what they're calling “flexibility.” Except, the employer gets to decide when the mother or any employee can take the time off — and that's not flexible.
Work more and earn less; that's the message the bill sends. It would hurt the many working mothers across the state — and particularly the nearly 2 million working mothers in Texas with children younger than 18. The bill would result in a pay cut for the millions of workers who rely on overtime pay to help cover their housing, food and medical bills.
The legislation theoretically allows an employee to negotiate the leave versus pay issue directly with his or her employer. However, under the bill, workers who insist on being paid overtime wages could be denied overtime assignments. Again, that's not flexible.
It's no wonder that more than 160 organizations, including the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, the National Partnership for Women and Families and the National Research Center for Women, oppose the legislation.
A better goal would be to help women achieve pay parity. A real way to give women and mothers more flexibility is to support equal pay for equal work. Nationally, women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, which is why I am a cosponsor to H.R. 377, the “Paycheck Fairness Act.”
The Paycheck Fairness Act actually strengthens working mothers in a way that counts — it bolsters the Equal Pay Act by closing loopholes and imposing effective penalties on employers who discriminate based on gender. In the 23rd Congressional District in Texas, a male makes on average $40,399 while a female makes on average $32,664 — an earnings ratio of just 81 percent.
Leaders in Congress should adopt policies that will provide families with the economic security and the time that they need: a fair wage, equal pay for American women and paid sick days.
You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. The so-called “Working Families Flexibility Act” would more accurately be titled the “Pay Working Families Less” Act. And it doesn't change the fact that you can't feed a family with time off.
Pete Gallego is a member of Congress from Alpine, Texas. A Democrat, he represents Texas' 23rd Congressional District. The above op-ed first appeared in the San Antonio Express-News.