WASHINGTON — Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski has joined a group of fellow Democratic senators to push for increased compensation for low-wage employees who work overtime.
“We, as a country, need to work on ways to help our economy grow from the middle out, not the top down,” Mikulski and three of her colleagues said in a Feb. 29 letter to Labor Secretary Tom Perez. “Despite longer working hours and higher productivity, workers’ wages have remained virtually unchanged. Millions of people are working harder than ever without basic overtime protections.”
The senators, called on Perez to finalize the overtime pay change, which his agency proposed last year. It would affect almost five million white-collar workers within the first year of its implementation.
A final rule updating the overtime regulations will be issued by July with an effective date “sometime” afterwards, according to an agency spokesman, Jason Surbey.
Currently, workers making up to $23,660, or $455 per week, qualify for overtime. The new threshold would bump up that earnings limit to $50,440.The change would create $1.4 billion in additional wages, the senators said.
“As the costs of education, child care, and retirement have steadily risen, Americans need these protections so that they can build a better future for themselves and their families. We respectfully request that you issue a final rule as soon as possible,” the senators said in the letter.
Mikulski called the proposal “long-overdue” and said it would give workers “a chance to get ahead, not just get by.”
“I am on the side of an economy that works for everyone and building a stronger middle class to bring opportunities to families across the nation,” Mikulski said in a statement.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic candidate for president, was among those who signed the letter. Others included Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois; Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both of Oregon; Barbara Boxer of California; Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Ed Markey of Massachusetts; Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, both of Rhode Island; Debbie Stabenow of Michigan; Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both of New Mexico; Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both of Connecticut; Patrick Leahy of Vermont; Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin; Bob Casey of Pennsylvania; Chris Coons of Delaware; and Maria Cantwell of Washington.
The Department of Labor said in a statement that it received 270,000 comments during the public comment period and is currently reviewing the comments.
“By automatically updating the salary threshold to keep pace with inflation or wage growth, the proposal would guard against erosion of overtime pay in the future and provide more certainty for businesses and employees,” Perez said in a blog post last year.
The department declined requests for comment on the congressional letter since the proposal is still in the rulemaking process.