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Wilson Appointee to Commission Favors Change in Overtime Policy

Labor: Panel could eliminate time-and-a-half pay for work exceeding more than eight hours a day.


SACRAMENTO — Gov. Pete Wilson on Friday appointed an IBM executive who favors abolition of overtime pay for work exceeding eight hours a day to the Industrial Welfare Commission.

The selection of Cynthia Neff, 45, a Democrat and an executive at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, gives the commission the three-vote majority needed to change the state's overtime law.

The commission, on a 3-2 vote, gave preliminary approval in January to repealing time-and-a-half overtime pay for work that exceeds eight hours a day. The commission favors the federal rule of paying overtime for work in excess of 40 hours a week.

Voting with the majority in January was Carolyn P. Arnold, who operates a chain of fast-food outlets in San Bernardino County. But Arnold ran into trouble this week from Senate Democrats at her confirmation hearing.

Rather than risk her rejection, Wilson at the last minute pulled her nomination from the Senate Rules Committee.

Sean Walsh, Wilson's spokesman, said Friday the governor is confident that Neff represents the third vote necessary to make the new rule permanent when the commission votes again next month.

Walsh noted that Neff had testified earlier before the commission in favor of paying overtime based on working more than 40 hours a week.

"We don't expect her to change her position," Walsh said.

Neff took the oath of office Friday, Walsh said, but it is unlikely that her Senate confirmation hearing will occur before the commission's vote.

Wilson is not required to officially notify the Senate of Neff's appointment for 60 days, long after the commission's rule change would become final.

A change in the state's overtime law would affect about 6.5 million workers who are not covered by collective bargaining agreements.

The change is sponsored by Wilson and employer organizations, who argue that it provides flexible hours for workers to better deal with California's changing work conditions and gives new flexibility to managers.

It is opposed by organized labor, which says management could require an employee to work a series of 12-hour days without overtime as long as the hours did not exceed 40 in a week.

In a related development, Democrats on the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on Thursday approved a labor-backed bill designed to derail the Industrial Welfare Commission's authority to change the overtime law.

The bill by Assemblyman Wally Knox (D-Los Angeles), however, stands little chance of becoming law because it requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. The committee vote was 7-0 with Republicans abstaining.

Knox said he wants to plunge his measure into the overtime debate to illustrate a sincere attempt to stop the commission from changing the overtime rule.

Times staff writer Max Vanzi contributed to this story.

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