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Tell the Labor Department: Americans want overtime pay

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    Tell the Labor Department: Americans want overtime pay

    President Obama has a plan to boost the economy and give millions of workers a raise, and the big business lobby is desperate to stop him.

    In 1975, 65% of salaried employees received overtime pay if they worked over 40 hours a week. Today, that number is less than 11%.1 The threshold below which employers must pay overtime is actually lower than the poverty rate for a family of four.2 Is it any wonder that productivity keeps going up but wages have stayed flat for decades?

    The Labor Department has the ability to raise the threshold, and President Obama just announced a proposal to increase it to $50,400.3 Republicans and their allies on Wall Street are already trying to weaken and kill it. Progressive champion Representative Mark Takano has been leading the charge for a strong overtime rule, and we need to add our voices right now and tell the Labor Department to stand strong.

    Tell the Labor Department: Americans want overtime pay.

    Right now, you are only eligible for overtime pay as a salaried employee if you make less than $23,660 a year, below the poverty level for a family of four. And big business groups have fought for massive exemptions and loopholes that allow them to pay employees far less than the minimum wage. Today, fast food companies can pay employees the salaried equivalent of a 40-hour-week at minimum wage – but force them to work 60+ hours, spending 95% of their time at the cash register or sweeping floors, then label them “managers” to deny time-and-a-half pay.4

    When Congress passed the law governing overtime pay, it granted the Department of Labor the power to revise the salary threshold and eligibility, but it hasn’t been raised in over ten years.5 In 1975, 65% of salaried workers were eligible for overtime pay. If that level had simply risen with inflation, it would be nearly $52,000 today. If we raised the threshold to $69,000, as Rep. Takano and 31 other House Democrats have called for, it would once again cover 65% of salaried employees.6

    Tell the Labor Department: Americans want overtime pay.

    Raising the overtime threshold is good for workers and the unemployed. For starters, it will return us to the days of rewarding hard work with good pay. The proposed level would expand overtime to nearly 5 million workers. If the Labor Department instead chose to simply adjust for inflation, 6.1 million Americans would be eligible for time-and-a-half pay.7,8 Studies have found that increasing overtime pay leaves workers happier overall, even if it results in changed work schedules.9 And on top of it all, some businesses will choose to hire new workers instead of paying overtime, which would reduce the ranks of the jobless and seeking.

    Wall Street and the big business lobby would prefer to work Americans to the bone and pocket the profits instead of recirculating them to benefit the whole economy, so they’re out to kill this new proposal before it goes into effect. We can’t let that happen – we need to make sure the public comments to the Labor Department show where Americans really stand.

    Tell the Labor Department: Americans want overtime pay.

    Thank you for speaking out,

    1. Rep. Mark Takano and 31 House Democrats Call for Expanded Overtime Pay,” Takano.House.gov, January 19, 2015.
    2. Why It’s Time to Update Overtime Pay Rules: Frequently Asked Questions,” Economic Policy Institute, October 21, 2014.
    3. Barack Obama, “A Hard Day's Work Deserves a Fair Day's Pay,” HuffingtonPost, June 29, 2015.
    4. Why It’s Time to Update Overtime Pay Rules: Frequently Asked Questions.”
    5. Ibid.
    6. Ross Eisenbrey, “Where Should the Overtime Salary Threshold Be Set? A Comparison of Four Proposals to Increase Overtime Coverage,” Economic Policy Institute, December 23, 2014.
    7. Obama, “A Hard Day's Work Deserves a Fair Day's Pay.”
    8. Eisenbrey, “Where Should the Overtime Salary Threshold Be Set? A Comparison of Four Proposals to Increase Overtime Coverage.”
    9. Why It’s Time to Update Overtime Pay Rules: Frequently Asked Questions.”