WASHINGTON – The Republican majority in the House yesterday rammed through a bill aimed at delaying implementation of a Labor Department regulation that would increase by 12.5 million the number of workers eligible for overtime pay.
The regulation was scheduled to go into effect December 1. If it becomes law, the bill — cynically called the Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools and Nonprofits Act – would delay implementation for six months.
That’s just step one in the Republicans’ plan to kill expansion of overtime protection altogether.
As William Samuel, director of government affairs for the AFL-CIO, wrote to members of the House, “The only rationale for delaying the overtime rule is to give the next Congress time to kill the rule altogether-robbing millions of workers of the opportunity to earn more pay or spend more time with their families.”
Currently the most powerful bulwark protecting workers from the Republican plan is the expected veto by President Obama if the bill passes the Senate and reaches his desk.
If the Republicans capture the White House in the next election, it’s almost a certainty that overtime protection will not be expanded.
Today, only workers earning $23,660 a year or less are eligible for overtime pay. That’s $455 per week.
The Labor Department rule would raise the threshold for overtime pay to $47,476 a year, or $913 a week.
According to Samuel, this expansion is modest. “The current salary threshold for overtime pay would be over $57,000 if it had kept pace with inflation since 1975,” he wrote in his letter to Congress.
“Workers have waited decades for an update to the salary threshold,” Samuel continues. “The Labor Department has updated it only once since the 1970s-in 2004, when it was set too low.
To prevent the wage threshold from lagging behind inflation in the future, the Labor Department rule automatically ties future hikes to inflation. Once implemented, the threshold level will increase every three years, beginning in 2020.
“Having experienced decades of wage stagnation and uncompensated overtime, workers should not have to wait a day longer for the protection the new regulations will provide,” Samuel wrote.
His letter concludes by stating “For approximately 12.5 million workers, this new regulation is the most effective way to raise wages, create jobs, and restore the 40-hour work week.”