• U.S.

The Press: Overtime

2 minute read

The surprising theory that newshawks sent on baseball trips, political campaigns and Presidential fishing junkets are on duty 168 hours a week and must therefore, under the Wages-&-Hours Act, be paid about four days overtime for each day they work was advanced in Washington last week. It was advanced not by enthusiastic Newspaper Guildsmen, but by forceful, big-jowled Lawyer Elisha Hanson, who used to cover the Peoria Distillers of the old Three-I League for the Peoria Journal.* Nowadays Mr. Hanson is the high-powered adviser of almost every important association of newspaper publishers in the U.S.

Last week he was trying hard to persuade Administrator Elmer F. Andrews to find that newspaper employes do not come under the rules of the Wages-&-Hours Act. Mr. Hanson based his arguments on 1) Section 13 (a) (2) of the Act, which exempts employes of any “retail or service establishment the greater part of whose selling or servicing is in intrastate commerce”; 2) Section 13 (a) (1) which exempts “professional” employes; 3) Section 2 (a) which would exempt industries not engaged in “commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.”

In formal reply Administrator Andrews ruled out Argument 1, saying, in effect: newspapers are not service establishments. The problem of reporters on continuous assignments will be studied further, probably covered in a later ruling.

To settle the tougher question of whether editorial workers are “professionals,” Mr. Andrews will hold a formal hearing.

*Mr. Hanson’s theory was a simple reductio ad absurdum with which neither publishers, Guild nor common practice agree. The Act sets 44 hours as the maximum work week, requires overtime payment at one and one-half times the regular salary rate. But out-of-town assignments are part of the normal duties of many a reporter, and while some Guild contracts require twelve hours’ pay for each day away from home, any newshawk who tried to collect 24 hours on the same basis would soon be laughed out of a job.

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