Last year, the Department of Labor issued the “Overtime Rule,” which increases the profoundly outdated salary threshold below which most salaried workers are eligible for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476. In November, however, a district court in Texas issued a nationwide injunction against the rule. When asked whether he would defend the rule in court, Acosta volunteered that he in fact questions whether or not the Department of Labor even has the authority to set the salary threshold.
It is breathtakingly radical for a labor secretary nominee to be questioning the authority of the Labor Department to set the overtime threshold. The Labor Department has exercised this authority since 1938, and has done so under 10 presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush. Congress has amended the Fair Labor Standards Act many times and has never objected to the salary test. The law is unambiguous; the Labor Department has the authority to set the threshold. Suggesting otherwise suggests a disturbing openness to drastically undermining foundational labor standards that protect workers’ time and earnings.
Heading into the hearing, the question on many people’s minds was whether or not Acosta would demonstrate that, as secretary of labor, he would fight for workers’ rights and wages. His response to the overtime question provides a clear answer: NO.