WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined a group of 25 other senators in calling on the White House to strengthen overtime protections for workers. In a letter to President Obama, the senators urged the Administration to increase the overtime threshold to include workers earning $1,090 per week. The letter also argued for indexing the overtime threshold to inflation. While only 11 percent of salaried workers currently qualify for overtime pay, the senators’ proposal would make 47 percent of workers eligible for time-and-a-half pay when working more than 40 hours per week.
“While average salaries for middle-class jobs have declined, hours have increased,” Brown said. “That is unacceptable. We must ensure that workers receive the overtime they deserve. Helping more Americans make ends meet also boosts consumer spending and bolsters our economy. Too many middle-class workers have been working longer hours without additional compensation – it’s time for a change.”
In March 2014, President Obama directed the Department of Labor to revise rules defining who is eligible for overtime pay. Under current law, only people who earn $455 or less per week, roughly 11 percent of salaried workers, qualify for overtime pay when working over 40 hours. The senators highlighted that in 1975, 65 percent of salaried workers qualified for overtime pay. To meet that percentage, the threshold would need to increase to $1,327 per week.
Full text of the letter – also signed by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) – is below.
January 29, 2015
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We commend you for your commitment to strengthen overtime protections for American workers. Overtime protections are vital to helping middle class workers and our economy. As you work on the final regulation, we encourage you to increase the overtime threshold to at least $1,090 a week ($56,680 a year) and index it to inflation.
Too many Americans are working longer and harder without anything to show for their efforts in their paychecks. These long hours are straining middle class workers and their families. Since the 1970s, average salaries for middle class individuals have dropped even while salaried workers have increased the hours they spend on the job. Strengthening overtime protections will help millions of middle class families.
Current regulations fail to protect the majority of the workforce. Today, the salary threshold that determines who is automatically eligible for overtime coverage is so low that earning as little as $455 a week ($23,660 a year) could result in being exempted from being eligible for overtime. Only 11 percent of salaried workers earn less than the current overtime threshold, a drastic departure from the past when most workers earned overtime pay. In 1975, 65 percent of American salaried workers were under the income threshold. To cover 65 percent of salaried workers today, the income threshold would need to be increased to $1,327 (around $69,000 a year).
Raising the income threshold to at least $56,680 a year will restore the monetary value of the income threshold to 1975 levels and make approximately 47 percent of salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. These are middle class workers who have been working longer hours but without additional compensation. You have an opportunity to help these workers get a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work by restoring the income threshold to at least its 1975 value ($56,680 a year) and indexing it to inflation.
Thank you for your ongoing efforts to help middle class families.
Cc: The Honorable Thomas Perez, Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor