Sunday, May 22, 2016

Paul Ryan, Self-Proclaimed Champion Of The White Working Class, Declares War On Overtime Pay Expansion


Hispanic voters, fearful of what a Trump presidency could do to their families and communities, are registering to vote at unprecedented rates. Some Republican operatives and stategists think they can overcome that by selling themselves as the party looking out for the interests of the white working class. Well, there's an element of truth in that-- if you're talking about the segment of the white working class that puts a premium on KKK membership and rabid xenophobia. In terms of policies that actually impact the working class... not so much. Last Tuesday, when the White House announced new rules expanding overtime pay for as many as 4.2 million white collar workers (many of them, presumably, as white as their collars). Republican obstructionists immediately objected and started threatening law suits.

Unfortunately for Republicans who have to face the voters in November, Speaker Ryan has vowed to lead the House GOP in a battle against the overtime expansion. Long Island Republican Peter King represents exactly the kind of district that would benefit most from the new rule, but King is a zombie-like ideologue who goes wherever Ryan leads him. The progressive Democrat contesting the South Shore congressional seat this year, DuWayne Gregory, understands the rule change will help a lot of families who live on Long Island. "This new rule will potentially have a profound impact on thousands of Long Island families," he told us this morning. "It is my hope that Peter King will not do as he usually does and go along in lock step with the obstructionist Republican agenda that is so destructive to hard working families. King needs to show some leadership on this issue and not be a lap dog for a failed agenda. I applaud the President's move to expand overtime pay for salaried workers. This new rule will have a profound impact on millions of families and will help the economy. We can't allow this Republican anti-working class Congress to hurt the families that will be impacted by implementation of this rule." In an editorial last week, the NY Times game-planned how Republican opposition could manifest itself in terms of the November elections.
Under federal law dating to 1938, an employer does not have to pay time-and-a-half when salaried employees work more than 40 hours a week if they earn enough to qualify as executives, professionals or administrators. The problem is that the salary threshold that defines a white-collar job-- at least $455 a week, or $23,660 a year-- has not been fully updated for inflation since 1975. As a result, workers who earn modest salaries are often deemed ineligible for overtime pay.

The new rules, which take effect on Dec. 1, 2016, raise the threshold to $47,476. An estimated 4.2 million workers will become newly eligible for overtime and another nine million who should be earning overtime now (because of the nature of their work), but often don’t get it, will no longer be denied the pay that is rightfully theirs. In all, about one-third of salaried employees will be eligible for overtime pay under the new threshold, compared with a mere 7 percent currently.

Opponents of the new rules include retailers and low-wage employers who often require unpaid overtime from low-salaried employees. They have said that employers will cut base pay if forced to pay overtime, but that appears to be an idle threat, since pay cuts would be deeply unpopular with workers and would very likely create more turnover. If a business does not want to pay overtime, it could hold salaried employees to no more than 40 hours a week. Or it could hire new people to do work previously performed by those who put in unpaid overtime. Alternatively, it could raise the pay of salaried workers above the new threshold, and thus be exempt from the overtime rule.

The Labor Department originally proposed a new threshold of $50,440, which would have accounted more fully for inflation. That proposal also called for annual updates to the threshold; the final rule calls for adjustment every three years. These changes were made to respond to objections from low-wage employers, mostly in Southern states, who said the new rules would be too onerous.

Because the rule has been issued near the end of the Obama administration, Republican leaders in Congress could try to use end-of-session maneuvers that would let them vote next year to repeal it. A repeal would be vetoed if a Democrat won the White House, but it is unclear what the presumed Republican nominee, Donald Trump, would do. For now, in a rare victory for fair pay, the new rules are on their way to becoming a reality.
If American voters replace Ryan-stooges like John Katko (NY-24) in November, with progressives like Eric Kingson, even if Trump winds up as president, he won't be able to use that maneuver. And there's no doubt that Trump, Hillary or whomever, Kingson, will be unrelenting in his fight for working class families-- in Central New York and across the country. Last night he told us that "Raising the overtime threshold from $23,660 to $47,476 is good policy, good economics and good for the country. On December 1, 4.2 million white collar workers will become eligible for time-and-a-half pay when working more than 40 hours a week. That means more money in the hands of low-and moderate income workers, more money circulating in the economy and greater reward for working long hours. Though not appreciated by Speaker Ryan who immediately announced that he will fight the overtime rule, it’s long past time to restore the rights of working people, relative to corporate profits and billionaire greed. President Obama’s directive to the Department of Labor is a modest step in the right direction. It fits well with other changes that would reward hard work and address unsustainable economic inequality-- a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, Medicare for All, closing the gender wage gap and supporting unions."

Steve Knight, represents California's 25th congressional district that runs from Simi Valley through Santa Clarita and out into the Antelope Valley. He's a union-hating Tea Party extremist who can be counted on by Ryan to back his efforts to thwart expansion of overtime eligibility. The progressive Democrat running against him this year is Lou Vince, a union member himself. Yesterday Lou told us why he's enthusiastic about Obama's rule change on this. "During the 1950s and 1960s, overtime allowed Americans to thrive and achieve their American dream. Labor unions and overtime pay are the two biggest contributors to allowing a vibrant middle class to exist. I'm proud to stand with the President as he expands eligibility for overtime, allowing over 4 million Americans to earn more money and stimulate our economy. Given Congressman Knight's willingness to vote against the residents of the 25th district on all sorts of issues, I'm proud to embrace this initiative and promise to defend it once elected to Congress. With our growing income inequality and stagnating wages, we need to make sure we support our American workers and allow them to earn a decent living. As the only middle-class challenger to Congressman Knight this cycle, I understand this issue on a personal level and will be steadfast in my support."

Pat Murphy is the progressive Democrat running against reactionary multimillionaire Rod Blum is northeast Iowa. The former Speaker of the state House who pushed through an agenda centered on working families, Murphy is a big supporter of the new rule. "Too many employers are abusing loopholes to avoid overtime rules. The administration is right to expand overtime protections to millions more workers to ensure employees get fair pay for their work. This will have have a major impact on working families here in Northeast Iowa. In Congress, I will keep working to raise the minimum wage and pass paycheck fairness."Please consider helping progressive congressional candidates like Eric Kingson, Pat Murphy, Lou Vince and DuWayne Gregory beat obstructionists like Katko and King.

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