Right now, American workers know they’re working more than ever before and for less pay. Since the 1970s, middle class wages have stagnated, while the number of hours spent on the job has gone up.
The salary threshold to be eligible for overtime pay hasn’t even come close to keeping pace with inflation, and that leaves millions of families behind. The current threshold is now so low, it’s below the poverty level for a family of four. Right now, it’s not uncommon for salaried workers to be required to work 50, 60, and 70 hour weeks, without getting a cent in overtime.
Plain and simple: if you work extra hours, you should earn extra pay.
That’s why I was proud to join Vice President Biden and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez in Columbus last week to announce a new overtime rule to raise the salary threshold and grant overtime pay to millions of American workers.
Right now, only Americans who earn $23,660 a year or less – just 11 percent of all salaried workers – qualify for overtime pay. The new rule will raise the threshold to $47,476 per year, meaning 134,000 more Ohioans will now be eligible to earn overtime when they work more than 40 hours per week.
It’s past time for overtime hours to mean overtime pay again, and that’s what this rule will do. This is a win for Ohio workers, and a win for hardworking families across the country who are trying to keep a foothold in the middle class.
For workers who already put in long hours, this rule will mean more money in their pockets to put food on the table, pay down student loan debt, and save for the future. For others, it will mean more nights off to sit down around the dinner table with their family or help their kids with homework.
When workers put in the hours, they should see that reflected in their paychecks – it’s that simple.
Our middle class is this country’s greatest strength, and the way we build and support that middle class is by making hard work pay off. There’s still a lot more we have to do – from raising the minimum wage, to ensuring equal pay, to establishing paid sick leave and paid family leave. But this expansion of overtime pay is a major step in the right direction that will help millions of families across the country.
We know that the hardworking families who will be helped by this rule aren’t taking that extra money and putting it in Swiss bank accounts. More money in families’ pockets means more trips to the mall and more nights out at neighborhood restaurants – where that money is pumped back into the local economy, to support even more jobs.
That’s how we grow our economy – from the middle out, not the top down.
The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.