RACINE, Wis. – John Edwards (search) chose the almost evenly divided state of Wisconsin to tout the Democratic presidential ticket's economic plans and criticize the Bush administration's new rules for overtime pay.
"Today, millions of workers will find out that instead of getting time-and-a-half, they're going to get a hard time from their government," the vice presidential nominee said in prepared remarks as the rules took effect Monday. "More than 60 years of protecting overtime work have been wiped out with the stroke of this president's pen."
The overhaul rewrites rules for awarding overtime pay for the first time in more than half a century. Employers sought the changes for decades, complaining that the regulations were too confusing and out of date.
The changes effect mostly white-collar workers, and the Labor Department says manual laborers and other blue-collar workers won't be affected. The estimates of how many workers might see their pay change vary widely.
Edwards and presidential nominee John Kerry predict the changes mean smaller paychecks for millions and predict workers like teachers and computer programers could see their pay shrink.
"Taking away the right to overtime pay and doing nothing while paychecks shrink and jobs go overseas makes sense only to someone who does not understand American values and does not respect what work means in this country," Edwards said.
The Bush-Cheney campaign said the Democrats have distorted the president's record and that the new rules will grant overtime pay to some workers not now eligible.
"This attack is another example of the Kerry campaign trying to mislead American workers," said spokesman Matt McDonald. "The only loser under this reform is the trial lawyers who have created an overtime lawsuit industry that costs our economy $2 billion per year."
Edwards amassed his personal fortune as a plaintiff's trial lawyer before winning election to the Senate from North Carolina in 1998.