Leah Barkoukis

Surprise, surprise: Obama is threatening to veto the Working Families Flexibility Act, which passed the House this week, because of what the WSJ describes as the White House’s “fealty to unions.” The bill, sponsored by Alabama Rep. Martha Roby, would reform the 75-year-old Fair Labor Standards Act to “allow employees to swap overtime pay for compensatory time off.” In other words, the flex time bill would give working parents the ability to more easily balance work and family responsibilities. Roby’s message about the bill in the GOP’s weekly address is simple: They ‘want to get Washington out of the way of how you use your time.’

“This week the House passed my bill, the Working Families Flexibility Act, which will remove an outdated and unnecessary restriction on private sector employees accruing comp time, or paid time off, in exchange for overtime.

This bill provides options for working moms and dads who need more time to take care of family responsibilities. It also demonstrates how applying conservative principles can help working Americans in their everyday lives.

What this bill doesn’t do is change the 40-hour work week or how overtime pay is calculated. The same protections that have been a part of labor law for decades remain, and we’ve added additional protections against coercion or unfair treatment. This bill also doesn’t add government regulation to the workplace - we have enough red tape as is.

A more flexible workplace isn’t a new concept. In fact, many employees in the public sector enjoy this benefit right now. That’s because in 1985 Congress passed a law allowing local and state governments to offer their employees the option of comp time.

So, why should the rules be different for employees in the private sector? Why should government workers have more freedom in the workplace than everybody else? And why is Washington restricting employers from offering certain benefits that government itself is free to offer?”

The White House’s opposition can only be understood in terms of the bill’s implications for the unions. And if you haven't figured it out by now, the AFL-CIO absolutely loathes the flex time bill and has been actively lobbying against it. WSJ’s scathing editorial on the matter breaks it down:

The politics at play here is White House fealty to unions. The only way for many private workers to obtain flex-time is if a union negotiates it as part of a collective-bargaining agreement. Unions routinely tout their ability to win such flexibility in their organizing drives, though pay raises and pension benefits are always higher priorities. But if workers can negotiate overtime pay for flexible work hours on their own, they have one less reason to join a union and pay the dues that fund Democratic campaigns.

With other major news like IRS targeting and Benghazi taking center stage, it will be difficult for this bill to get the attention it deserves, especially by liberal media. But modernizing the labor law to give working families more flexibility is something Republicans should fight hard for.  And as the WSJ editorial states, “If Democrats intend to keep waging a war against flexible hours for women in the workplace, voters ought to know about it.”


Leah Barkoukis

Leah Barkoukis is the Managing Editor at Townhall Magazine.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography