Oregon Democrat Kurt Schrader takes aim at Obama’s overtime rule


Kurt Schrader
Kurt Schrader

Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader can’t seem to stop taking stands that are directly opposed to the well-being of working people. The latest: He’s sponsored a bill to delay and limit a long-overdue overtime update that is set to take effect Dec. 1.

The update has to do with which employees are eligible for overtime pay. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers must be paid time-and-a-half for every hour they work over 40 in a week, but “executive, administrative and professional” employees can be considered exempt from the overtime pay requirement. Increasingly, employers have been paying low-level managers on a salaried basis and claiming they’re exempt from overtime. They get away with it because the Department of Labor says it’s okay to exempt managers from overtime if they’re paid on a salaried basis and the salary is over $23,660 a year. That dollar amount was last updated in 2004 after being unchanged since the 1970s, and it was too low even in 2004. The Obama Administration’s new rule raises it to $47,476—more along the lines of what it was in the 1970s, adjusted for inflation—and indexes it to inflation from now on. The change is expected to affect over 4 million American workers.

Business groups howled in protest, and they found a friend in Schrader, who represents Oregon’s 5th Congressional District. Together with three other members of his “Blue Dog Democrat” caucus, he introduced a bill to phase the increase in over three years and eliminate the automatic future increases for inflation.

“Since the DOL’s immediate phase-in date was announced, we’ve heard from business owners and their employees who are worried about implementing this increase overnight,” Schrader explained in a July 17 press release announcing the bill, H.R. 5813. “Without sufficient time to plan for the increase, cuts and demotions will become inevitable, and workers will actually end up making less than they made before.”

Schrader’s bill was praised by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which said it would “soften the impact of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) onerous overtime regulation.”

But it got immediate push-back from the Obama Administration: “The president and I think that American workers have waited long enough for a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work,” said Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.

The Oregon AFL-CIO blasted the bill in an email to union members: “That’s not a step forward for working people, it’s a step backward.  And we can’t afford to keep going in the wrong direction.”

“Kurt Schrader: Don’t sell us short”

The Oregon AFL-CIO is calling on supporters to sign an online petition to Kurt Schrader opposing the overtime rule change delay.


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