Udall, Heinrich Fight to Extend Overtime Pay to Thousands of New Mexico Workers

In Letter to Labor Secretary, Senators Call on Agency to Move Quickly to Increase Overtime Pay Protections for More than 5 Million Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) urged the U.S. Department of Labor to promptly extend overtime pay to millions of Americans who work long hours without fair pay. Last year, the agency proposed an expansion of overtime pay protections that could benefit 5 million Americans, including 20,000 New Mexicans. The proposal would ensure overtime pay for salaried workers earning up to approximately $50,440 per year. Currently, only workers earning $23,660 or less are required to receive overtime pay, and that threshold has not been meaningfully updated since the 1970s. 

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, the senators called on the agency to move quickly to finalize the overtime pay proposal, adding that while the costs of education, childcare and retirement have risen steadily in recent decades, wages have remained virtually unchanged.

“As our economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, we, as a country, need to work on ways to help our economy grow from the middle out, not the top down,” the senators wrote. “But today, 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. We applaud the Department of Labor's move to update the overtime pay threshold, and we are writing to request that you quickly finalize the rule to ensure millions of workers are paid fairly for the hours they work.”

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

In addition to Udall and Heinrich, the letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)   

February 29, 2016

The Honorable Thomas E. Perez
Secretary
U.S. Department of Labor

Dear Secretary Perez:

As our economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, we, as a country, need to work on ways to help our economy grow from the middle out, not the top down. But today, 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. We applaud the Department of Labor’s move to update the overtime pay threshold, and we are writing to request that you quickly finalize the rule to ensure millions of workers are paid fairly for the hours they work.

Overtime protections were first passed as a way to protect workers from exploitive working hours, but these protections no longer reach many of the workers they were intended to help. In 1975, overtime protections covered nearly 62 percent of full-time salaried workers—a stark contrast from just 8 percent of full-time salaried workers eligible today. This is especially concerning as those who currently qualify for overtime pay make $23,660 a year or less—an income beneath the federal poverty level for a family of four.

By failing to keep pace with the current economy, overtime pay protections have significantly weakened over the last several decades. Raising the overtime pay threshold to $50,440, as proposed, could restore protections to more than five million full-time salaried workers, creating $1.4 billion in wages in the first year alone. As the costs of education, childcare, 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.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,