Although it’s been awhile since we’ve had non-cubicle related jobs, we often occasionally look back not so fondly at our manual labor type jobs. One of the things we remember was how the highlight of the day usually centered around lunch break. Not necessarily because we were hungry, but because it gave us a brief respite from the soul-crunching, mind-numbing dreariness of the job (as opposed to the soul-crunching, mind-numbing dreariness of our office job). Little did we know that instead of basking in the half-an-hour long lunch break we received, we should have felt oppressed by the heavy-hand of the Government, forcing us to take lunch-breaks when we might not have wanted to. Thanks to a new mandate from the Governator changing the rules on when a worker can take lunch, the working class will now be freed from oppressive half-an-hour breaks.
Before the new mandate, the laws stipulated that a worker had to take a half-an-hour lunch break before their fifth hour of work. And if the break is not given, the employer has to pay the employee double-time for that half-an-hour period that should have been their lunch. Now, it’s a half-an-hour lunch break before their sixth hour and by lunch-break, we mean told beforehand that they could take a lunch-break if it so happens to fit into everyone’s schedule. Since Gov. Davis passed more stringent rules about lunch in 2000, lots of lawsuits have been filed in behalf of poor starving and tired workers who were forced to miss their lunch and then not paid for the time they were forced to miss. Proponents, mainly the Governator, lobbyists, and Chamber of Commerce folks (ie people who have never had a service job in their life) all say the rules need to be changed to stop frivolous lawsuits hurting the state and that it will allow workers to, in the words of some Chamber of Commerce flunky, eat “when they're hungry, not when a state bureaucracy tells them to.” Opponents of the changes, mainly labor folks, say that the Governator wants to take their lunch away and that the changes will make it easier for evil corporations and Scrooge-like employers (like, say Wal-Mart, which- shockingly- is being sued in Alameda for allegedly not paying workers for overtime, deleting hours from employees paychecks, and forcing employees to work during breaks) to further screw the poor.
One of the reasons the sudden change in the law has gotten everyone’s panties in a bunch is the Governator’s maneuvering to get the mandate out there. Administration officials mandated the rule as an “emergency” action, which allows only for a public comment period of five days. That period ends today. The rules would then go in effect for six-months, which will allow the rules to be changed the normal process. Lawmakers are complaining that by issuing the rule as an “emergency” action, it is an attempt by the Governator to do an end-run around the legislative process. That is, of course, unless you don’t think workers being forced into taking lunch-breaks doesn’t constitute an emergency.