Change will help reduce income inequality, jump start local economies
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama announced last month that the Department of Labor (DOL) intends to raise the salary threshold below which workers must receive overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. Today, nearly 150 Democrats across both chambers of Congress—led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Bobby Scott (VA-03)—sent a letter to the President in strong support of the rule.
Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) expressed his strong support for the increase.
“Today, only eight percent of the workforce is covered by overtime pay rules,” said Scott. “Workers who earn more than $23,660 and perform certain managerial duties are exempt from overtime pay rules. That means many low-income salaried workers do not earn ‘time and a half’ for hours worked over forty hours per week. This rule represents a real opportunity for the Obama Administration to make a significant impact on the growing problem of income inequality in America.”
The current salary threshold is $23,660, and the proposed rule would raise it to $50,440. Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, emphasized the need to support workers with updated overtime protections.
“Without updated overtime protections, big corporations can exploit the rules to avoid paying workers the time-and-a-half pay they've earned, so I support the Administration's step to restore this basic worker protection,” Senator Murray said. “Republicans want to take that away, but I will be fighting back on behalf of the millions of hardworking Americans putting in overtime without receiving a dime in extra pay.”
Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Rep. Frederica Wilson (FL-24) also weighed in, in support of the proposed overtime rule.
“As the Ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, I have heard many disheartening stories from the very people who would benefit from this rule change. In my district and all around the nation, millions of Americans are struggling to care for themselves and their families on low, stagnant, or unfair wages,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson (FL-24). “Some of my colleagues would like to allow employers to give workers compensatory time that would be taken at the employers’ discretion in lieu of overtime pay, but comp time can’t pay the bills, buy bread or help build our economy. I applaud the administration’s efforts to help ensure that Americans get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”
Additional members highlighted the importance of the Department of Labor’s proposed overtime rule and the impact it would have for nearly 5 million workers.
“For forty years, working class families have been forced to work more hours without seeing the rewards, as our overtime pay protections have eroded," said Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41). "I’m pleased that President Obama and the Department of Labor have decided to raise the income threshold to a level that would benefit more than 5 million Americans, and I urge the Administration to move this new regulation through the rulemaking process without delay. Doing so would help reverse the trend of widening income inequality and give millions a chance to climb the economic ladder.”
In the 30 years between 1973 and 2013, hourly compensation for the typical worker rose just over nine percent, while during that same time period productivity increased by 75 percent. One reason for the gap between the growth in productivity and wages is that many more workers today are working overtime, but are not being paid for their additional hours of work.
“Our economy has been built on the simple idea that if you work hard you can succeed," added Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). "But for decades, employers have taken advantage of overtime rules to avoid paying workers the wages they have earned, making it tough to succeed even if you work hard,” said Brown “The proposed overtime regulations would put a stop to that abuse to ensure that workers get extra pay for extra work. I urge the administration to finalize it as quickly as possible.”
The proposed rule would put more money in the pockets of hardworking Americans, and the signers look forward to supporting the final rule.