President Obama stood up for 135 million American workers today by using his pen and power make sure that workers get paid for all of the hours that they put in.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: For more than 75 years, the 40-hour workweek and the overtime that comes with it have helped countless workers like Nancy get ahead. And it means that when she’s asked to makes significant sacrifices on behalf of her company — which she’s happy to do — they’re also looking out for her, recognizing that that puts a strain on her family and — having to get a babysitter and all kinds of things, adjustments that she has to make. It’s just fair. It’s just the right thing to do.
Unfortunately, today, millions of Americans aren’t getting the extra pay they deserve. That’s because an exception that was originally meant for high-paid, white-collar employees now covers workers earning as little as $23,660 a year. So if you’re making $23,000, typically, you’re not high in management. If your salary is even a dollar above the current threshold, you may not be guaranteed overtime. It doesn’t matter if what you do is mostly physical work like stocking shelves, it doesn’t matter if you’re working 50 or 60 or 70 hours a week — your employer doesn’t have to pay you a single extra dime.
And I think that’s wrong. It doesn’t make sense that in some cases this rule actually makes it possible for salaried workers to be paid less than the minimum wage. It’s not right when business owners who treat their employees fairly can be undercut by competitors who aren’t treating their employees right. If you’re working hard, you’re barely making ends meet, you should be paid overtime. Period. Because working Americans have struggled through stagnant wages for too long.
Every day, I get letters from folks who just feel like they’re treading water. No matter how hard they’re working — they’re putting in long hours, they’re working harder and harder just to get by, but it’s always, at the end of the month, real tight. Workers like the ones with me here today, they want to work hard. They don’t expect a free lunch and they don’t expect to be fabulously wealthy, they just want a chance to get ahead.
So today, I’m taking action to help give more workers that chance. I’m directing Tom Perez, my Secretary of Labor, to restore the common-sense principle behind overtime: If you go above and beyond to help your employer and your economy succeed, then you should share a little bit in that success. And this is going to make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans, from managers in fast food and retail to office workers, cargo inspectors.
And we’re going to do this the right way — we’re going to consult with both workers and businesses as we update our overtime rules. We’re going to work to simplify the system to it’s easier for employers and employees alike. With any kind of change like this, not everybody is going to be happy, but Americans have spent too long working more and getting less in return.
So wherever and whenever I can make sure that our economy rewards hard work and responsibility, that it makes sure that it’s treating fairly the workers who are out there building this economy every day, that’s what I’m going to do. What every American wants is a paycheck that lets them support their families, experience a little bit of economic security, pass down some hope and optimism to their kids. That’s what we’re going to be fighting for. That’s what I’m going to be fighting for as long as I’m President of the United States.
The memo that President Obama signed today will offer overtime pay protections to 135 million workers. This change was long overdue, as corporate giants like Walmart have been abusing the system for years, and cost workers millions of dollars in lost overtime wages.
This is a common sense modernization of regulations that will help the people who need it most. Low wage workers who have found themselves classified as management and working for less than the minimum wage.
People who work hard every day deserve to be compensated for the hours that they work. It is a matter of economic fairness, and common sense.
The president is responsible for implementing regulations. The memo that he signed today was well within his power to update regulations.
Republicans will consider this another dictatorial move by the president, but in reality Obama is making sure that millions of workers get the compensation that they are entitled to.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA.Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association