07.21.15

Murray: Updating Overtime Protections is Good for Families and the Economy

Murray: “Boosting wages and expanding economic stability and security is good for families, and it’s good for our economy.”

  

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks on the Senate floor in support of the Obama Administration’s proposed rules to restore overtime protections for millions of Americans. In her remarks, Murray highlighted that updating overtime protections will reward hard work with fair pay and will help restore economic security for families across the country. Murray explained that today, corporations can take advantage of outdated overtime rules to avoid paying workers fair time-and-a-half pay when they work more than 40 hours a week.

 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“…Across the country today, millions of workers are working harder than ever without basic overtime protections. That is why I am proud to come to the floor today to express my strong support for the Obama Administration’s new proposal to restore overtime protections for millions of workers and families. Not only is this the right thing to do—but it’s good for the economy.”

 

“In today’s economy, many Americans feel like they are working more and more for less and less pay, and in many cases, they are. A salaried worker can be asked to work 50, 60, or 70 hours a week and never see a dime of overtime pay. One of the main reasons is because overtime rules are severely out of date.”

 

“…Big corporations use these outdated overtime rules to their advantage. They force their employees to work overtime, without paying them the fair time-and-a-half pay. That might be good for a big corporation’s profit margin.  But as the Union-Bulletin in Walla Walla, Washington editorialized a few weeks back, these workers are ‘working, paying taxes, raising families, and often suffering due to the long hours.’”

 

“…this is especially important for parents. Think about what it would mean for a working mom who, right now, works overtime without getting paid for it. By restoring this basic worker protection, she could finally work a 40-hour workweek and spend more time with her kids.  Or, if her employer asks her to work more than 40 hours a week, she would have more money in her pocket to boost her family’s economic security.”

 

“I’ve heard from some of my Republican colleagues that they do not want to update overtime rules. But if Republicans want to take away this basic worker protection, they will have to answer to the millions of hardworking Americans putting in overtime without receiving a dime in extra pay.  They can try – but I know that I, and many others – are going to be right here fighting back for the workers and families we represent.”

 

“…this isn’t the only thing we need to do to raise wages and expand economic stability for families across the country. In the coming weeks and months, I am going to be working closely with Senate Democrats to continue our efforts to raise the minimum wage, expand access to paid sick leave and fair and predictable work schedules, and ensure women get equal pay for equal work. But restoring overtime protections is a critical part of our work to make sure more families get some much-needed economic stability.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you, M. President. 

 

“I believe that real, long-term economic growth is built from the middle out, not the top down. And our government, our economy, and our workplaces should work for all families, not just the wealthiest few.  But, M. President, across the country today, millions of workers are working harder than ever without basic overtime protections.

 

“That is why I am proud to come to the floor today to express my strong support for the Obama Administration’s new proposal to restore overtime protections for millions of workers and families. Not only is this the right thing to do—but it’s good for the economy.

 

“M. President, I want to share the story of a man named Paul from Massachusetts. As reported in the Boston Globe, Paul worked hard at a discount retail store to provide for his family. Each week, he was working 72 hours, on average. On one particular stretch, he worked for 40 days in a row, without a single day off. But, his employer didn’t pay him one dime extra for the work he did beyond 40 hours a week. 

 

“M. President, that’s fundamentally unfair. And Paul is not alone. There are so many workers just like Paul in states across the country.

 

“These workers feel like they have been left behind in this economic recovery. And they need government policies on overtime protections to catch up.

 

“M. President, in 1938, Congress recognized the need to set a standard 40-hour workweek. And by law, when workers put in more than 40 hours a week, their employers had to compensate them fairly with time-and-a-half pay.  But those protections have eroded over the past several years.

 

“In today’s economy, many Americans feel like they are working more and more for less and less pay, and in many cases, they are. A salaried worker can be asked to work 50, 60, or 70 hours a week and never see a dime of overtime pay.

 

“One of the main reasons is because overtime rules are severely out of date. Right now, if a worker earns just a little more than $23,000 a year, he or she does not qualify for time-and-a-half pay. That salary threshold is much too low. In fact, the current salary level is less than the poverty threshold for a family of four.

 

“M. President, workers should not have to earn poverty wages to get guaranteed overtime protections.  The salary threshold has only been updated once since 1975. Back in the mid-1970s, 62 percent of the American workforce was covered by overtime rules.  Today, just 8 percent of salaried workers have overtime protections.

 

“And big corporations use these outdated overtime rules to their advantage. They force their employees to work overtime, without paying them the fair time-and-a-half pay. That might be good for a big corporation’s profit margin.  But as the Union-Bulletin in Walla Walla, Washington editorialized a few weeks back, these workers are ‘working, paying taxes, raising families, and often suffering due to the long hours.’

 

“But M. President, unlike so many of the challenges we face here, there is a solution to this. And it doesn’t require Congressional action. Last month, the Department of Labor proposed to raise the salary threshold from about $23,000 to just over $50,000 a year.  That will restore overtime protections for millions of Americans.

 

“And this is especially important for parents. Think about what it would mean for a working mom who, right now, works overtime without getting paid for it. By restoring this basic worker protection, she could finally work a 40-hour workweek and spend more time with her kids.  Or, if her employer asks her to work more than 40 hours a week, she would have more money in her pocket to boost her family’s economic security.

 

“This is so important for strengthening the middle class.

 

“M. President, I do want to keep working to improve the proposed rule. I believe the Department of Labor should also update what’s known as the ‘duties test.’ For workers who make more than the salary threshold, but still do what’s thought of as blue-collar work, the duties test is supposed to ensure they get overtime protections.

 

“But today, the ‘duties test’ is also out of date. Under the current law, big corporations can exploit the current ‘duties test” to avoid paying their workers time-and-a-half. That needs to change.

 

“When workers put in more than 40 hours a week on the job, they should be paid fairly for it. That’s the bottom line.

 

“I’ve heard from some of my Republican colleagues that they do not want to update overtime rules. But if Republicans want to take away this basic worker protection, they will have to answer to the millions of hardworking Americans putting in overtime without receiving a dime in extra pay.  They can try – but I know that I, and many others – are going to be right here fighting back for the workers and families we represent.

 

“Boosting wages and expanding economic stability and security is good for families, and it’s good for our economy. And by the way, that’s exactly what we should be focused on here in Congress to help grow our economy from the middle out, not the top down.

 

“Now, M. President this isn’t the only thing we need to do to raise wages and expand economic stability for families across the country.

 

“In the coming weeks and months, I am going to be working closely with Senate Democrats to continue our efforts to raise the minimum wage, expand access to paid sick leave and fair and predictable work schedules, and ensure women get equal pay for equal work.

 

“But restoring overtime protections is a critical part of our work to make sure more families get some much-needed economic stability.  And enacting these policies would be strong steps in the right direction to bring back the American dream of economic security and a stable middle class life for millions of families.

 

“For workers like Paul who just want fair pay for a fair day’s work, for the parents who have sacrificed family time for overtime and not seen a dime in extra pay, for families who are looking for some much-needed economic security, I urge all of my colleagues to support restoring overtime protections.

 

“Thank you, M. President.  I yield the floor.”