fresh voices from the front lines of change







Everyone knows the law requires rank-and-file workers to be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. But do you know that millions of ordinary workers no longer get overtime pay for putting in 50-hour or 60-hour work weeks? President Obama can, and should, fix this with the simple stroke of a pen.

Here’s what billionaire Nick Hanauer writes in Politico, in “Whatever Happened to Overtime? “:

… You feel like you’re struggling harder than your parents did, working longer hours than ever before, and yet falling further and further behind. … Adjusted for inflation, average salaries have actually dropped since the early 1970s, while hours for full-time workers have steadily climbed.

… So what’s changed since the 1960s and ’70s? Overtime pay, in part. Your parents got a lot of it, and you don’t.

… By 2013, just 11 percent of salaried workers qualified for overtime pay … business owners like me have been able to make the other 89 percent of you work unlimited overtime hours for no additional pay at all.

Hanauer’s point? President Obama could do something right now:

These are rules that President Barack Obama has the power to change with the stroke of a pen, and with no prior congressional approval. The president could, on his own, restore federal overtime standards to where they were at their 1975 peak, covering the same 65 percent of salaried workers who were covered 40 years ago. If he did that, about 10.4 million Americans would suddenly be earning a lot more than they are now.

… [T]he Department of Labor would simply have to raise the overtime threshold to $69,000.

That’s right, President Obama could just order the Department of Labor to change the pay threshold for overtime pay eligibility to $69,000, and millions of working people would either get paid more or could go back to working 40 hours a week.

This would wither raise pay or cut unemployment (which would raise pay.) Hanauer notes that “if corporate America didn’t want to pay you time and a half, it would need to hire hundreds of thousands of additional workers to pick up the slack—slashing the unemployment rate and forcing up wages.”

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich echoes Hanauer, writing for Democracy for America:

In November, President Obama issued an executive order on immigration, protecting millions of families from deportation. There’s another action the President can take to help working Americans, without waiting for Congress:

He can direct the Department of Labor to expand the number of workers who can receive overtime pay, putting more money in the pockets of as many as 10 million Americans.

Hanauer and Reich are circulating a petition: “Join me, Robert Reich and Democracy for America in telling President Obama to instruct the Labor Department to expand overtime eligibility. Let’s raise the wage and put more Americans back to work.

Meanwhile Hanaeur’s article in Politico has much more, and is well worth reading. After you have signed the petition please read “Whatever Happened to Overtime? It’s one reason we’re poorer than our parents. And Obama could fix it—without Congress.

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