Imagine this: You’re a manager at a local convenience store. You supervise staff, justify inventory, hire and fire hourly workers, and even share some of their responsibilities. You like your job, but it pays a salary of only $30,000 a year, and you’re still required to work from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
For 72 hours a week, you earn roughly $8 per hour. That’s less than the hourly workers that you supervise earn. Why? Because workers who make more than $23,600 a year can be denied overtime.
This situation is the unforgiving, unfair reality for too many workers. Workers like Dawn from Michigan, who regularly put in 50 to 60 hours at her job as a manager for a local Dollar General store without ever seeing an extra cent.
You and Dawn deserve better.
You and Dawn deserve to be fairly compensated for your time, and the only reason you’re not is because of an outdated labor law. President Obama and the Department of Labor have taken an important first step to ensure that millions more workers receive the overtime pay they deserve. By increasing the salary threshold to $50,444 – meaning if you make less than that, you’re guaranteed protection – nearly 5 million more workers will be automatically eligible for overtime. This is a major win for the national Raising Wages Agenda.
Workers earning less than $23,600 a year already qualify to receive overtime pay, but that salary still puts a family of four below the poverty line. The minimum standard of employment should not force people into poverty. America is better than that.
The reason it’s so low is simple: Overtime hasn’t seen a significant adjustment for inflation since 1975, leaving it to cover only 8 percent of working people. Millions of hardworking Americans clock in long hours without a much-needed bump in our paycheck.
America has reached a crossroads and raising wages is at the center of the junction. It’s not only a moral imperative; it’s an economic imperative as well.
And, in light of a Republican Congress more focused on defeating Obama than on helping working families, expanding overtime is the most meaningful immediate action the Obama administration can take without congressional approval.
For far too long working men and women, the backbone of this country, have put in the hours to make our workplaces successful without ever reaping any of the economic benefits. Adjusting the overtime salary requirements is a great first step. But it is just that, a first step.
Opponents of the Raising Wages Agenda have already sounded the alarm. They have mobilized to try to drive the salary requirement down from $50,440. Corporate interests have lobbied in the past to eliminate overtime altogether, so you can bet their troops will fight higher wages in any form.
These opponents are the same that claimed raising the minimum wage in cities across the country would cost jobs and devastate the economy. Those apocalyptic futures couldn’t be further from the truth in San Francisco, Seattle and Santa Fe — all raised their minimum wage and none suffered the economic doom predicted by naysayers.
Given their track record, opponents of raising wages have about as much credibility on the economy as Donald Trump has on hair care.
Expanding overtime protections will create jobs, not cost them. Employers who have been exploiting their employees’ free labor now will have to either respect the 40-hour workweek, giving workers more free time to spend with their families, or compensate workers for the extra hours worked. Managers like Dawn, who is currently providing 20 hours of free labor. Under the new proposal, employers will shift those additional 20 hours from the higher-paid manager to hourly or part-time workers who need that work.
The labor movement, along with progressive allies in the community, has been and will continue to be resolved that workers deserve to be fairly compensated for their labor. We stand shoulder to shoulder against any attempt to deny hardworking men and women wages they rightfully earned.
Working people called on President Obama to be bold in assuring that workers are no longer taken advantage of and that they receive the overtime pay they deserve. Credit where due: President Obama delivered. Now we have to do our part to carry the baton across the finish line.
In the coming weeks, the voices of workers will be loud and clear. We will urge the administration to stand strong on its proposal, strengthen it where possible and not dilute this opportunity to raise wages by bending to the demands of corporate interests. We will keep working and fighting to raise wages for Dawn, for you, and for all workers.