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Obama Overtime Rule May Find New Life in the States

If President Trump fails to expand overtime protections for working people, some state legislators say they will.
By Omar Tewfik ·

In response to right-wing efforts to block an Obama administration rule that would’ve expanded overtime pay protections to millions of workers, progressive legislators in some states are looking to take matters into their own hands.

Last year, the Obama administration issued the so-called overtime rule, which would’ve doubled the salary threshold for eligible workers making less than $47,476 annually, ensuring they’re paid time-and-a-half for each hour they work beyond 40 hours.

The rule proposed increasing the income threshold from $23,660 to $47,476 – that is, from $455 to $913 a week – for overtime eligibility. Workers earning more than that, and managers, would’ve been exempted.

AFSCME hailed the move as an important step to give hardworking Americans a long-overdue raise and for making sure that people get paid for the work they already do.

But after the rule was finalized by the Department of Labor, right-wing politicians and big business interests rushed to sue in federal court. A federal judge in Texas blocked the rule from being implemented. President Donald Trump, as well as his nominee for labor secretary, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, are also hostile toward the rule, essentially labeling it a burdensome regulation.

Since the rule appears headed nowhere, progressive legislators in some states are starting to push their own legislation to increase access to overtime pay.

According to Bloomberg, Democratic legislators in several states, including Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island are considering legislation that would effectively implement the Obama overtime rule – or versions of it – during their own legislative sessions.

State legislators taking up overtime could be a sign that under the Trump administration, the onus will shift to states to protect their own workers. With the federal overtime rule looking al but finished, state legislation could keep economic justice within reach for many Americans. 

Overtime is but one of several areas, including health reform and climate change, “where liberal legislators around the country are now exploring ways to create miniature replacements for Obama-era reforms that could soon be unraveled,” Bloomberg says.

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