MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE Men's Health Magazine just voted Portland the most patriotic city in America (um, fail), but city council was laying on the Americanism real thick this week.

The hot-button discussion was about $4 million in overtime paid to city employees who work more than eight hours on a given day, but whose hours don't add up to over 40 a week. That's about the size of our budget deficit, noted Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who wants to rewrite the union contract so that overtime for the city's 1,700 union employees would only kick in after they'd worked more than 40 hours a week.

"It doesn't make common sense for people to be paying people overtime who don't work more than 40 hours a week," said Saltzman.

Well, that sentiment is just gosh darn un-American, thinks Commissioner Randy Leonard.

"I thought that was a position that had been addressed back in the '30s, when the eight-hour day became the hallmark for American workers," Leonard hit back. "I think that's an anathema to most working Americans."

Oh snap! Saltzman is a sweat shop overseer! Leonard is the highly literate savior, cribbing synonyms for "bad" from a thesaurus under the table!

But that's not all. Saltzman also hates working parents and their sick kids. Leonard clarified the specifics of the proposal with the most heart-wrenching case possible: a mom/water bureau worker stays home on Monday to take care of her sick kid, then comes in on Tuesday and has to work four extra hours to fix a water main break. So under the new plan, she would be "stripped" of that coveted time-and-a-half pay for the extra hours?


Saltzman wasn't going to let the old mother-with-a-sick-kid excuse be the last rhetoric laid on the dais.

"We just passed a budget that's laying off workers. All these people, union members, could have their jobs if we dealt with this provision that paid people overtime who are working less than 40 hours a week," said Saltzman.

Leonard and the Saltz have been acting like siblings recently, feuding over firecracker issues. Last week, Saltzman's vote tabled a change Leonard proposed to police oversight process ["Complaining about Complaints," Hall Monitor, July 1]. This week, it's arguing over who loves the unions more.

See, that's the kind of patriotism Portland is good at, Men's Health Magazine. The kind of patriotism that involves out-liberaling one another.