BURLINGTON, Vt., June 30 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Tuesday morning welcomed an Obama administration initiative that will help middle-class families by making millions of American workers eligible for overtime pay.
“This long overdue change in overtime rules is a step in the right direction and good news for workers,” Sanders said. “Businesses no longer will be able to shirk their responsibility to pay fair wages by simply labeling workers earning as little as $24,000 a year as supervisors,” Sanders said.
Sanders and 25 other senators had sent a letter to the White House last Jan. 31 urging the U.S. Department of Labor to modernize overtime regulations. In the letter, they detailed how many corporations had exploited antiquated regulations to avoid paying time-and-a-half for workers who put in more than 40 hours a week on the job.
Under federal law, employers are supposed to pay overtime to hourly workers and salaried employees who make less than $455 a week and are not executives or administrators. But some employees give low-paid salaried workers titles like shift supervisor and assistant manager and then claim a “white collar exemption” to deny them overtime. Sanders had urged boosting the threshold for workers eligible to $1,090 a week. The White House sets the threshold at $970 a week.
Updating the rules will increase the take-home pay of an estimated 5 million workers who are now making less than $50,400 a year.
Altogether 26 senators signed the letter written by Sens. Sanders and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The letter was sent to U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez in addition to the president.
“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,” the senators wrote.