Trumka: Expanding overtime pay is wise

Richard Trumka

Imagine this: You’re a manager at a local convenience store. You supervise staff, 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 is the reality for too many workers, who regularly put in 50-60 hours at their job as manager.

You deserve to be fairly compensated for your time. You’re not only because of an outdated labor law. President Barack 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, nearly 5 million more workers will be automatically eligible for overtime.

Workers earning less than $23,600 a year already qualify to receive overtime pay, but that still puts a family of four below the poverty line. The minimum standard of employment should not force people into poverty.

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 their 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.

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.

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.

Richard Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.