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A Fair Day's Wage: Obama's Proposed Overtime Expansion Could Affect 20,000 Idahoans


As many as 20,000 Idaho workers could see a welcome pay raise in the form of paid overtime, a luxury they have yet to be afforded with current national standards.

With President Barack Obama's recent proposal to raise the overtime salary threshold, workers making as much as $50,400 would be paid for their overtime hours. Currently, employers are not required to pay workers making more than $23,660 for their overtime hours.

"Millions of American workers are one step closer to earning the overtime they have been systematically denied," said Idaho State AFL-CIO President Adam White.

White explained that these millions of Americans would include thousands of Idahoans.

President Barack Obama's proposed expansion of the paid overtime threshold has been a topic of intensive debate on multiple platforms, including hundreds of back-and-forth comments on his op-ed published on the Huffington Post, where he argued these current regulations are old exemptions for "highly paid, white collar employees" and in need of a modern update.

"That's how America should do business," Obama wrote, "In this country, a hard day's work deserves a fair day's pay. That's at the heart of what it means to be middle class in America."

Many comments on Obama's Huffington Post blog post in favor of the proposed legislation, echoing the President's focus on middle class America.

"Good," Dawn Richards Chappell commented on the Huffington Post article. "Now that corporations are making record profits, they can hire more people instead of forcing $30,000 a year workers to work 60 hours a week."

According to White, many Idahoans are forced into the same fate Chappell described. They are put on salary in an effort to cut costs, and, in the end, pay.

"I know folks working in healthcare get put on salary a lot," White said. "But they should get overtime and they should be compensated for it."

White found that this often occurs when employers "dangle the carrot of promotion" in front of their workers.

"They're taking advantage of their workforce. They will tell them, 'Work a year on salary for 12 hours a day. Then maybe in a year well give you that promotion.'"

While the benefits of the proposal seem to be overwhelmingly accepted by multiple workers, some have voiced their confusion and disapproval. Construction manager Jeff Ex had his own questions regarding the proposal.

"Last year I began moving my people to salary—not to save me money, but to even out their pay year," Ex commented on Obama's op-ed. "instead of paying high wages plus overtime in warmer weather and laying people off in colder seasons, I asked them, and they all agreed the salary would be better for everyone."

While this proposal may not solve all of the wage problems and lack of overtime pay in Idaho currently, White believes it is a good first step forward in a constant effort in the Raising Wages Agenda.

"Here at AFL-CIO, we're always interested in helping workers achieve work with dignity and a fair, same workplace that helps them provide for their families," White said.