Heinrich: Strengthen Overtime Protections For New Mexico Workers

"Too many Americans are working longer and harder without anything to show for their efforts in their paychecks."

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined a group of 26 senators in supporting updating overtime rules to ensure more middle-class workers are paid fairly for overtime hours. In a letter to President Obama, the senators urged the administration to increase the income threshold to $56,680 per year to strengthen overtime protections for millions more middle-class workers. The current annual salary  threshold to receive time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours is $23,660 impacting a mere 11 percent of salaried workers nationwide.

"Too many Americans are working longer and harder without anything to show for their efforts in their paychecks," the senators wrote. "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 current threshold of $23,660 disqualifies thousands of New Mexico middle-class workers, who often work long hours, from earning time-and-a-half pay. An estimated 100,000 additional New Mexican workers would be covered under an updated overtime threshold. 

Heinrich signed the letter, led by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Bernie Sanders  (D-Vt.), along with Sens. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)

Full text of the letter is here and below: 

January 29, 2015

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest

Washington D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We commend you for your commitment to strengthen overtime protections for American workers.  Overtime protections are vital to helping middle class workers and our economy.  As you work on the final regulation, we encourage you to increase the overtime threshold to at least $1,090 a week ($56,680 a year) and index it to inflation.

Too many Americans are working longer and harder without anything to show for their efforts in their paychecks.  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.     

Current regulations fail to protect the majority of the workforce.  Today, the salary threshold that determines who is automatically eligible for overtime coverage is so low that earning as little as $455 a week ($23,660 a year) could result in being exempted from being eligible for overtime.  Only 11 percent of salaried workers earn less than the current overtime threshold, a drastic departure from the past when most workers earned overtime pay.  In 1975, 65 percent of American salaried workers were under the income threshold.  To cover 65 percent of salaried workers today, the income threshold would need to be increased to $1,327 (around $69,000 a year).

Raising the income threshold to at least $57,000 a year will restore the monetary value of the income threshold to 1975 levels and make approximately 47 percent of salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. These are middle class workers who have been working longer hours but without additional compensation. You have an opportunity to help these workers get a fair day's pay for a hard day's work by restoring the income threshold to at least its 1975 value ($56,680 a year) and indexing it to inflation.

Thank you for your ongoing efforts to help middle class families.

Sincerely,