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California, Truck-Drivers, and Waiting Tables; The Law of Unintended Consequences

Philosophy is so interesting to me. I love the various philosophical or metaphysical laws and try to live by them. When I think of changes that I want to make, I try to remember that I cannot control all the variables that will affect change and thus, according to the Law of Unintended Consequences, I don’t know what will happen. I have to remember that occasionally when I want one thing to happen, the exact opposite will happen.

In the mid-to-late 1990s the state of California changed its overtime laws. Previously workers could work more than 8 hours in a day and not earn overtime until they reached 40 hours in a workweek. When the change took place the law required employers to pay employees overtime starting at 8 hours in a workday regardless of how few hours they had worked for the week. California did this to protect workers from employers who might “overwork” employers and “deny” them overtime wages. They enacted this law to help workers earn more money.

I was working in food services for a rather nice restaurant at that time. I knew several food servers who had to get second (or even third) jobs because of California’s attempt to “protect” them. What happened was the workers could work double-shifts racking up 9-10 hours and that allowed them to be more efficient with their time and earn tips, obviously, from back-to-back shifts.

These employees would work doubles 3 or 4 days per week and occasionally they had second jobs on weekends. When the rule-change took effect, the schedule-makers could no longer risk them working back-to-back shifts so they had their hours reduced from 35+/- per week to 20-25 over 4-5 days. Restaurants had to hire more workers to fill shifts that were previously handled by the incumbent wait-staff.

Workers didn’t earn more, they earned less. And they were no longer able to be as efficient with their time.

Why is my personal story relevant in a Transportation/Shipping blog? Congress is moving to protect truck drivers from states, (Barbara Boxer & California, we’re looking at you) that want to fight “federal authority” provisions (which would normalize laws for transportation workers who regularly cross state lines). Without federal authority California and/or other states could impose rules ostensibly designed to “protect” workers but which would actually confuse and even harm the very workers the rules were designed to protect.

Be sure to check out James Jaillet’s piece at CCJDigital.com for more on the topic.

Thanks for reading.

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