Monday, April 15, 2019

Hurting the better paid workers

8 million working people can be made to work up to 50, 60 or even 70 hours a week, missing time with their families, without receiving any extra pay, even if they make as little as $35,000 a year. That’s how many U.S. "middle-class" workers will be left without strong overtime pay protections under the Trump administration’s weak overtime rule proposed on March 22. 

The salary threshold below which workers are guaranteed time-and-a-half overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week has been frozen for decades, with no adjustment for the rising cost of living. As a result, the share of salaried workers guaranteed overtime pay has plummeted from six in 10 in 1975 to less than one in 10 today.

Trump overtime regulation replaces a 2016 Obama-era Labor Department rule that would have restored overtime protections for more than 12 million salaried workers earning up to $55,055 by 2023. The Obama-era rule was a modest first step toward correcting a system that was increasingly leaving workers behind. It would have restored overtime coverage to about one in three salaried workers. The Trump rule slashes that salary level to $35,308 — and treats workers earning more than that as if they were highly paid executive who don’t need overtime pay. All told, Trump’s decision to slash the salary threshold means workers will miss out on $1.2 billion in wages each year they would have received under the 2016 rule. 

Trump pledged that “Every decision … will be made to benefit American workers.” But the administration’s rollback of overtime pay protections and its record of dismantling worker protections at every turn show whose side the administration is really on when it comes to "middle-class" families struggling for a decent paycheck.

The overtime salary threshold is supposed to protect workers with little bargaining power — think of modestly paid front-line supervisors at fast food restaurants or discount stores — from being forced to work long hours for no pay.

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