American Workers Need Overtime Protections

Today, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and eight co-sponsors introduced legislation to restore overtime protections for low- and mid-wage salaried workers. The Restoring Overtime Pay for Working Americans Act would guarantee overtime pay for millions of salaried workers earning less than $52,000 a year.

Americans are working longer hours and are more productive than ever—yet wages are largely flat or falling. Indeed, the median worker saw a wage increase of just 5.0 percent between 1979 and 2012, despite overall productivity growth of 74.5 percent. One reason Americans’ paychecks are not keeping pace with their productivity is that millions of middle-class and even lower-middle-class workers are working overtime and not getting paid for it. This is because the federal wage and hour law is out of date—and especially the regulation that sets the salary level below which all employees must be paid time-and-a-half for their overtime hours.

Updating overtime rules is one important step in giving Americans the raises they deserve. If the threshold is raised from its current $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $984 per week ($51,168 per year, the threshold’s 1975 level, adjusted for inflation) millions of salaried workers would be guaranteed the right to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a week.

This bill would go above and beyond the recent announcement by President Obama in strengthening overtime pay regulations. I salute Sen. Harkin for taking up this issue and calling for a reasonable salary level, indexed for inflation, along the lines Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and I have advocated. Sen. Harkin led the battle in Congress in 2004 to block a set of very detrimental changes the Bush administration made to the overtime rules. While Sen. Harkin was not entirely successful, he did force the Bush Labor Department to issue a final rule that was less damaging than its first proposal. It’s heartening to see that both Sen. Harkin and his colleagues, along with the Obama administration, continue to believe that low and mid-level workers should be paid when they work overtime. If more workers were paid time-and-a-half when they worked overtime, it would boost the economy and show that in America, hard work pays off.

  • Save Our Workforce

    This is a great start towards a desperately need movement to help the middle and lower-classes become protected against upper-tier management/executives taking advantage of people looking for any kind of work and willing to get paid just about anything. The market has never been so competitive before in both the national scale and global scale. Both these classes not only have to worry about their competitor next to them, but their competitors across the world.

    This all starts with paying the people who do the work what they rightfully deserve. Now lets look at the whole economic sense of this, since 1980 the American GDP has approximately doubled. Inflation-adjusted wages have gone down. But the stock market has increased by over ten times, and the richest quintile of Americans owns 93% of it.
    So we can see the top have the most control of the market which isn’t necessarily too bad of a thing, but what’s scary is that 400 of the top richest Americans own 62% of the nations wealth. Now pair that with a shrinking middle class due to global competition and outsourcing and that reduces American workers ability to chase the their dreams.

    Now lets look at the top of the pyramid of business. CEO’s of the Fortune 500 make up to anywhere 100-400 TIMES the lowest workers wage and can rake in $100,000-$600,000 per WEEK. Back in the 1950’s -60’s when middle class was arguably the strongest, this was around 40 and no higher than 60 times the lowest wage worker. Sure these self-made or family inherited men/women earn this, it’s capitalism after all, but it should be noted that most of the Forbes 400 earnings came from minimally-taxed, non-job-creating capital gains. These CEO’s are just playing the game of business for the sake of their own success and ego. I don’t know about you, but If I made anywhere between 100k-600k I wouldn’t know what to do with it all, especially if it came from minimally-taxed, non-job-creating capital gains.

    Finally lets break down at that last VERY important sentence. Earnings that came from minimally-taxed, non-job creating. This would pretty much mean one thing, stocks. Lets remember that the richest quintile of Americans owns 93% of it. This means these companies and top-executives make their real bank off the stock market, which means they have to show increasing revenue each year to investors. This means they’re going to cut the “fat” and get rid of unnecessary jobs and outsource what they actually do need for cheaper production and wages. These companies might sell these products to Americans, but they don’t care about the actual well-being of their customers. As long as they get stock gains, the top makes money and their employees suffer for it.

    Help us spread this message of inequality and bring back appropriately paying jobs to the American middle class instead of outsourcing for profit to countries like India, China and more. For more information on what companies are US friendly and ones that support the common wealth, check out our data base at:
    saveourworkforce. org