Joel Mowbray

Have you heard the one about the Bush administration covertly aiding greedy employers who want to deprive 1.3 million low-income workers overtime pay?  If you haven?t, then you haven't been paying attention to Democrats?or the Associated Press.

  Last week, the AP ran a story accusing the Labor Department of giving ?tips? to employers on how to avoid paying overtime to low-income employees.  But no ?tips? were given to anyone, least of all employers.  Not that that stopped newspapers across the country from flogging the story, however.

  In an article touted as an ?AP Exclusive,? reporter Leigh Strope wastes no time mincing words, starting with the not-so-subtle headline: ?Labor Department offers employers tips to avoid overtime pay.?

  The Democratic National Committee couldn't have dreamed of a better way to set the stage?but the AP should have.

  Though most of the facts contained in the piece are technically correct, the context and the overall framing paint a picture that is simply not true.  No ?tips? were ever sent to employers.  The ?tips,? in fact, were compliance scenarios written up by eggheads on the government payroll, which is something these guys have to do every time a new regulation is drafted.

  The law mandates that all proposed regulations be subjected to cost-benefit analysis, which is done to make sure that red tape isn?t needlessly piled on by over-zealous bureaucrats.  And with the regulation in this case?mandating overtime pay for 1.3 million low-income workers?Labor Department policy wonks had to analyze the different ways employers could comply with the new regulation.

  Since the cost-benefit analysis was never given directly to businesses, the only way an employer could get hip to the ?tips? would be by reading the Federal Register, a painfully dry publication that probably has a lower readership than most high school newspapers.

  But to hear the AP tell it, the reader could conclude that Bush operatives were faxing secret ?options? to employers bent on sticking it to vulnerable workers.

  In the meat of the story, AP reporter Strope lists three bullet points with the ?options? employers were provided by the Labor Department.

  One ?option? to avoid paying overtime: give employees a raise.  Seriously.  Another way sneaky employers could avoid paying overtime: ?adhering to a 40-hour work week.?  Wow?what a conspiracy.  

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

Be the first to read Joel Mowbray's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.