In the last week the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Affordable Care Act, Same-sex marriage, and Independent Redistricting Committees in states like Arizona. It has also ruled against clean air and struck down the new EPA rules against coal-fired power plants. I guess they figure since you are now eligible for health insurance, it doesn’t matter if the air you breath is trying to kill you.
What I am waiting for now, is the upcoming attack on the middle-class in favor of profits that is looming just around the corner. I have written about this before, but the President is finally going to try to do something about a problem that has been years in the making.
In all of the labor laws in this country there are rules that deal with overtime pay. The situation is that if you are an hourly wage earner, you are eligible for overtime pay when you work more than 40 hours per week. However, if you are a “salaried” worker, you are not automatically eligible for overtime pay.
Under the current rules, if you earn more than $23,660 per year, you are not eligible for overtime pay, regardless of how many hours you actually work. The side-show to this is that if a company decides that people who are making more than 23,660 are “white-collar” they can put them on salary and thus avoid paying the overtime. Regardless of what work they are actually doing.
This problem has really reared its ugly head in the retail business. Many retail businesses call people managers whose primary job is stocking shelves. Since they pay them, say $30,000 per year, they are not required to pay these people overtime. Even when a lot of these people are forced to work up to 80 hours per week.
This overtime rule was changed under George W. Bush to the current threshold of $32.660 per year. It was the only time since 1975 that the rule had been changed. In 1975 the rule protected up to 60% of the workforce. Today, the rule protects about 8% of the workforce.
The President is poised to change the limit of earnings up to $50,440 per year. That is almost double what it is today. That means up to 40% of the workforce would be protected and able to earn overtime pay for their extra hours. There are some basic realities of the current economic upturn.
The first reality is that the top 1% earners are gaining 95% of the economic growth. The second reality is that middle-class pay has stagnated. For that matter, middle-class pay has been stagnant for over 30 years while the top 1% income has grown over 300%.
This rule change will not fix our ills. But it is a step in the right direction. It is something that will actually help the middle-class. That is why there will be trouble. See, once the President announces his plan, it must go through a “public hearing” period. Everyone on both sides of the issue will have a chance to voice their concerns about the rule.
The Chamber of Commerce has already spoken about the new rule. Randy Johnson, senior vice president of Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits calling the rule “another example of the administration being completely divorced from reality and adding more burdens to employers and expecting them to just absorb the impact.”
Business groups are not alone in their already opposition. You can bet conservatives in Congress will also weigh in on the new rule as well. As a matter of fact, the House Education and the Workforce subcommittee held a hearing largely devoted to excoriating the overtime rule, sight unseen. Republican Rep. Tim Walberg, the subcommittee chairman, pledged to oppose any overtime proposal that “goes too far” or that would “inflict harm on the nation’s workplaces.”
Of course, Walberg never said what he meant about that phrase of “goes too far” or “inflict harm on the nation’s workplaces.” I am willing to bet that he is talking about how this rule might cut into profits of the shareholders. That is the usual argument they come up with. I am also sure that John Boehner will trot out his “this rule is a job killer” attack. He really needs to get a new tape for that phrase. It is really worn out.
I am predicting that conservatives will start drumming the “economic doom” argument they always haul out from under the bed whenever something that would actually help employees is proposed. You will hear how it is a “job killer.” You will hear how it is a “train wreck” for the American economy. You will hear how it is a “redistributing wealth” gambit.
What you will never hear from the conservatives in Congress is how this will help millions of Americans live more comfortably. You will never hear from conservatives in Congress how these workers deserve fair pay for an honest day’s work. That is not how their capitalism works. Their capitalism works by enslaving the employees at extremely low wages and make more money for the shareholders.
I think it is time to get the BS suites out of the closet. This is more than likely going to get very ugly. Even if this rule gets made policy, you can be sure that the conservatives will run, not walk, down to the courts to get it overturned. So, don’t hold your breath waiting for the rule to take effect. Republicans will be sure to delay it as long as they can. Delaying things for the working people is about all they are good at!