In blasting new overtime rules that take effect Monday, Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards (search) says he can't understand why the Bush administration wants to undermine a system that rewards workers who toil long hours.

"If you work hard, then you should be rewarded for that effort," Edwards said Saturday in the Democrats' weekly radio address. "It is a time-honored tradition. It is what built this country.

"Why would anyone support this new rule which could mean a pay cut for millions of Americans who have already seen their real wages drop again this year?"

Democrats, labor unions and worker advocates tried unsuccessfully to block the new regulations — the first overhaul of government overtime rules in more than 50 years. The liberal Economic Policy Institute in Washington predicts 6 million workers will lose overtime pay, and only a few will get new rights to premium pay after 40 hours.

The administration and business groups counter that the old regulations were outdated and confusing, and were sparking lawsuits against employers by workers challenging their eligibility for the pay.The Labor Department (search) says no more than 107,000 workers will lose overtime eligibility from the changes, but about 1.3 million will gain it.

"Today, everywhere in America, families sit at the kitchen table and divide the bills into two piles: one says `pay now' and the other says `pay later,'" Edwards said.

"Americans have to tighten their belts in this economy, and on Monday that belt is about to get a whole lot tighter when this new overtime law starts working."