Whatever Happened to Overtime?

Here’s an excellent article from Politico magazine on another level of the increasingly easy way that the capitalist system is robbing regular people of their earnings.  While the workers who work by the hour feel their wages squeezed and benefits compressed. Wages have only grown about 18% over the last thirty years, see here, here and here].

While there is much focus on raising the minimum wage and its effect on our most impoverished workers, another struggle needs attention; the growing number of people working on salary.  Increasingly salary pay dominates the lower, and middle management business sector.  While traditionally upper management and executive management have allows worked on salary, the higher pay and the bonus package compensated for the increased responsibility and demand on one’s time.  As CEO salaries increase at an alarming rate in comparison to the average worker, salaried workers below them also have felt the squeeze in order to feed the top.  As explained briefly here in an NPR report, it has become common practice for low level management positions to have salary pay that is exempt from overtime rules or other benefits that hourly workers enjoy.  At the same time, most of the workers still earn in the lowest income brackets and do not enjoy the autonomy, high pay, benefits, stock option plans and other perks that the traditional exempt employee enjoys in exchange for giving up overtime compensation.

In other words, the current wage rules have become manipulated as a means for big business to increase their profit margins at the expense of workers.  Unfortunately many young people enter into this work culture unaware of the extent to which they are being duped.  Also, with our current culture of disallowing workers to discuss their pay rates, the shame associated with many low wage workers not wanting to share their pay rates and the fear of retribution if they complain, what would they do anyway?

While this article talks about the options that Obama has for making changes in the rules, the fact is, nothing will change until the people who suffer the hurt get out and demand change.  But nevertheless, its a very good article about the rise in an average worker’s work week, the increased pressure on workers and the lack of any increase in compensation.  Once we understand the problem, in a democracy its our responsibility to do something to fix it.  Its our country, our state, our local government, our lives.  In actuality, big business fears the collective power that would take place if all workers joined together and refused to support a corrupt system with their hard labor and lives.

Whatever Happened to Overtime?

by Nick Hanuer

If you’re in the American middle class—or what’s left of it—here’s how you probably feel. You feel like you’re struggling harder than your parents did, working longer hours than ever before, and yet falling further and further behind. The reason you feel this way is because most of you are—falling further behind, that is. Adjusted for inflation, average salaries have actually dropped since the early 1970s, while hours for full-time workers have steadily climbed.

Meanwhile, a handful of wealthy capitalists like me are growing wealthy beyond our parents’ wildest dreams, in large part because we’re able to take advantage of your misfortune.

So what’s changed since the 1960s and ’70s? Overtime pay, in part. Your parents got a lot of it, and you don’t. And it turns out that fair overtime standards are to the middle class what the minimum wage is to low-income workers: not everything, but an indispensable labor protection that is absolutely essential to creating a broad and thriving middle class. In 1975, more than 65 percent of salaried American workers earned time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours a week. Not because capitalists back then were more generous, but because it was the law. It still is the law, except that the value of the threshold for overtime pay—the salary level at which employers are required to pay overtime—has been allowed to erode to less than the poverty line for a family of four today. Only workers earning an annual income of under $23,660 qualify for mandatory overtime. You know many people like that? Probably not. By 2013, just 11 percent of salaried workers qualified for overtime pay, according to a report published by the Economic Policy Institute. And so business owners like me have been able to make the other 89 percent of you work unlimited overtime hours for no additional pay at all.

Read more at: Whatever Happened to Overtime?

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One thought on “Whatever Happened to Overtime?

  1. The wealthy few are eating minnows of all sizes. People are getting restless again, with the disillusionment also running strong. We need to lend whatever tools at our disposal to those taking up the fight. With all of the recent activity on minimum wage increases, anti-racism and rape awareness there are many itchy activists. Networking is key.

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