Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bernie Sanders, Patty Murray, and 24 Other Dems Encourage Obama to Be Bold with New Overtime Rules

Later this month, the Obama administration is expected to announce whether you'll be eligible for overtime pay:
Last year, as part of his plan to raise wages through executive action, the president ordered the Labor Department to revise the rules that determine which workers are eligible for overtime pay. Under the Depression-era Fair Labor Standards Act, hourly workers earn time-and-a-half for hours worked beyond 40 in a week. The idea is to give companies a choice: Either pay a premium for having employees work more, or hire more workers and spread the labor around to other people.

But under the law, only certain salaried workers qualify for the overtime premium. The crafters of the law sought to carve out executives and other well-paid, white-collar professionals.
Thanks to inflation, the current criteria -- set by the Bush administration in 2004 -- exclude the vast majority of salaried workers from overtime pay. Over the objections of Republicans and business lobbies, the White House clearly plans to make the overtime rules more inclusive. But how many workers will become overtime-eligible depends on how ambitious the administration feels.

The rules are complicated, but mostly boil down to what's known as the salary threshold. If you earn below a certain amount in a year, you're automatically qualified for overtime, no matter your work duties. Right now, the salary threshold is historically low -- $455 per week, or $23,660 per year -- which is why so few salaried workers qualify. Today, a mere 11 percent of salaried workers fall under the threshold, compared with 65 percent in 1975, according to the Economic Policy Institute. That growing exclusion has been great for business payrolls. For workers' paychecks, not so much.
According to the above article from the Huffington Post, the White House is leaning toward a $42,000 salary threshold, which would cover 35 percent of salaried workers. 
A group of 26 senators, led by Bernie Sanders and Patty Murray (ranking members of the Democratic Caucus in the Budget and HELP Committees, respectively), wrote to Obama last week urging him to shoot higher and embrace a $56,680 threshold, which would restore the monetary value of the threshold to its 1975 value and cover 47 percent of salaried workers:
Dear Mr. President:
We commend you for your commitment to strengthening overtime protections for American workers. Overtime protections are vital to helping middle class workers and our economy. As you work on a final regulation, we encourage you to increase the overtime threshold to at least $1,090 a week ($56,680 a year) and index it to inflation.
Too many Americans are working longer and harder without anything to show for their efforts in their paychecks. These long hours are straining middle class workers and their families. Since the 1970s, average salaries for middle class individuals have dropped even while salaried workers have increased the hours they spend on the job.

Strengthening overtime protections will help millions of middle class families.
Current regulations fail to protect the majority of the workforce. Today, the salary threshold that determines who is automatically eligible for overtime coverage is so low that earning as little as $455 a week ($23,660 a year) could result in being exempted from being eligible for overtime. Only 11 percent of salaried workers earn less than the current overtime threshold, a drastic departure from the past when most workers earned overtime pay. In 1975, 65 percent of American salaried workers were under the income threshold. To cover 65 percent of salaried workers today, the income threshold would need to be increased to $1,327 (around $69,000 a year).
Raising the income threshold to at last $56,680 will restore the monetary value of the income threshold to 1975 levels and make approximately 47 percent of salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. These are middle class workers who have been working longer hours but without additional compensation. You have the opportunity to help these workers get a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work by restoring the income threshold to at least its 1975 value ($56,680 a year) and indexing it to inflation.
Thank you for your ongoing efforts to help middle class families.
Here are the 26 signers:
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Here are the 19 members of the Democratic caucus not on that letter:

Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Angus King (I-ME)
Gary Peters (D-MI)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)

Harry Reid was out with an injury, so I wasn't surprised to not see his name.

If you live in a state whose Democratic(s) senator didn't sign on, call them and ask why not. Maybe they missed the request. (I would think people like Merkley, Boxer, and Udall would be supportive.) Maybe they turned it down. It's good to know which one.

No comments:

Post a Comment