A Republican State Representative in New Hampshire has found a way to create a new front in the war on workers, proposing a bill that would repeal the state’s law requiring that workers get a 30-minute lunch break after five hours of labor.
State Rep. J.R. Hoell (R), a supporter of libertarian-leaning Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) for president, told a New Hampshire General Court committee this week that he believes the law is unnecessary because it is in employers’ interest to treat workers well, according to The Concord Monitor.
His argument was seconded by state Rep. Kyle Jones (R), a 20-year-old Ron Paul backer who earned a seat in the New Hampshire General Court during the last election as part of a mother-son candidate slate. Jones said that his days working as a shift supervisor at Burger King taught him that employers will always treat employees well because human resources departments require it.
Almost needless to say, New Hampshire lawmakers were not impressed with the bill, and Mark MacKenzie, the state’s AFL-CIO president, practically eviscerated the pair.
“Quite frankly, considering this is 2012, and I’m talking about the repeal of the lunch hour, this is outrageous,” he said, according to the Monitor. “The reality is, absent a law, employers are on their own to treat their workers the way they think is most appropriate. Will they give them lunch hours? I don’t know if that would be the case. I don’t think every employer would deny them, but I think there would be some, certainly.”
Despite the insistence of Hoell and Jones, labor laws such as the 40-hour work week, overtime pay requirements, maternity leave and other worker allowances mandated by states and the federal government did not come about until workers began to unionize en masse to push back against abusive working conditions.
For centuries workers have pushed back, only to be treated as criminals. That began to change after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D) signed the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, protecting the right to organize and collectively bargain.
Since then, organized workers have won victories for lower income people across the country, pushing through numerous pieces of federal legislation that protect workers from racial, gender and age discrimination, require employers to maintain a certain level of workplace safety, prevent children from being used as manual laborers, mandate a minimum wage and, of course, extend a lunch break to everyone who puts in a day’s work.
Photo by Charles C. Ebbets, 1932, via Flickr user daily sunny.