Trump Labor Dept. takes first step toward yanking overtime pay rule
Labor secretary-designate Alexander Acosta testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. | Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

WASHINGTON (PAI) — The Trump administration’s Labor Department has taken the first step toward yanking the new overtime pay rule – a rule that doubled the wage ceiling under which workers were eligible for overtime, making millions of more people qualify for overtime.

The Labor Department sent a request to the Trump White House’s Office of Management and Budget on June 27, asking OMB to put out “a request for information on defining and delimiting the exemptions” from overtime pay “for executive, administrative, professional, outside sales and computer employees.”

In plain English, what the Labor Department wants OMB to do is to open the new rule up to corporate challenges.

After years of lobbying by workers and their allies, the Obama administration’s Labor Department increased the wage ceiling for workers eligible for overtime from just over $23,000 to $47,476 yearly. It was the first such hike in a decade.

Obama’s DOL also broadened the definition of which workers could get overtime, while narrowing the categories of those who could not. When DOL last increased the overtime pay ceiling, under GOP President George W. Bush, it also broadened the “exempt” workers so much that even newspaper editorial assistants could become ineligible for overtime pay.

Obama’s rule never formally took effect, however. A GOP-named federal judge in rural Texas, acting at the demand of corporate special interests, halted it with an injunction. Now Trump’s Labor Secretary wants to let firms make the case to dump it entirely.

The “request for information” on overtime pay shows Trump “is once again siding with CEOs over working people,” said Celine McNicholas of the Economic Policy Institute.

“One reason Americans’ paychecks have not been keeping pace with their productivity is that millions of middle-class workers have been working overtime but not getting paid for it. The updated overtime pay rule ensures that middle-class Americans who work hard get a fair return on that work—putting money in people’s pockets and giving them the chance to spend more time with their families. The Trump administration is trying to take that away.

“DOL does not need more information about the rule. EPI alone submitted eight separate studies during the 2-year rulemaking period, and the public submitted hundreds of thousands of comments in support of the updated rule. Corporate interests had plenty of time to weigh in. They flooded the department with comments and analyses during the rulemaking period, and some of their comments were incorporated into the final rule, reflected in the revised salary threshold and timing of the automatic updates.

“It is a waste of time and money to have another review of a rule that has been thoroughly studied,” she said.


CONTRIBUTOR

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Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.

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