Ross Douthat’s syndicated column, “Leaving work behind” [Opinion, Feb. 11], juxtaposes liberal and conservative solutions to the tendency of low paid workers to leave the workforce.
One other solution should be considered: amendments to the wage and hour laws. If, over the course of a number of years, the 40 workweek were reduced to 35 hours or fewer, the number of salaried jobs subject to overtime pay were increased, the rate of overtime pay were increased from time and a half to double time, and minimum standards for paid vacations were introduced, jobs would be more attractive to many workers — and would encourage employers to hire more people rather than pay overtime.
Annual vacations for full-time workers, with overtime pay for vacation not granted, could start at one week annually, increasing to four weeks over a period of years. Obamacare’s decoupling of health insurance from employment, and the rise of portable 401(k) retirement plans will reduce employer’s fixed costs per employee, replacing them with variable costs per hour worked (or dollar of total payroll).
Well-educated professionals and upper-level managers would still be exempt from wage and hour laws and could strive to work as may hours as they choose. It is impossible to imagine low-paid workers continuing to work more for lower real wages in order to bolster the pay of the striving professionals and managers.
Thomas R. Dyer, Seattle