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Neoliberalism Has Finally Been Defeated

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Donald Trump continues to pay off for the American working class, this time gutting Obama’s overtime expansion plan.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it plans to change labor regulations so that more salaried workers are eligible for overtime pay when they work long hours. But its proposal would benefit far fewer middle-class workers than the stalled plan that the Obama administration put forward just three years ago.

Unlike hourly employees, very few U.S. workers paid on salary are guaranteed time-and-a-half pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. The Trump plan, developed by the Labor Department, would expand protections to more workers by raising what’s known as the overtime salary threshold ― the salary below which all workers are assured overtime pay.

For more than a decade, that threshold has remained a measly $23,660. That means if your salary is greater than that ― and your job is considered professional, executive or administrative ― you can work unlimited hours in a week and earn nothing more than your base salary. The Trump proposal would raise the threshold to roughly $35,000, expanding the universe of workers entitled to time-and-a-half pay.

You might say that’s a victory and if you squint, it is. However:

But worker advocates say the administration is doing the employer lobby a favor, by proposing a threshold that they say is still too low. By not raising it even higher, they say, companies will still be allowed to work many of their employees excessive hours knowing they won’t have to pay them anything extra for it.

Democrats piled on the plan before it was even officially released. “If the Trump administration follows through on this rule, it would be breaking its promise to hardworking Americans,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in a statement.

The Obama administration tried to reform the overtime rules in a more aggressive and worker-friendly way. In 2016, they released a plan to roughly double the salary threshold, to $47,476. It was one of the most ambitious economic reforms of Obama’s presidency, a plan he said would restore higher wages and leisure time to overworked Americans.

And yet it never made its way into law. Most employers despised the plan, calling it a job killer. The proposal would have left them with an unpleasant choice: either cap their workers at 40 hours, or start paying them more for their extra work. They sued to stop it from going into effect. A federal judge in Texas granted an injunction in 2016, saying Obama’s Labor Department exceeded its authority the way it wrote the new rule.

After Trump won the 2016 election, it soon became clear the new administration would not try to keep the popular Obama plan alive, even though polling showed a majority of voters liked it. Soon-to-be-Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta signaled in his 2017 confirmation hearing that he envisioned a more employer-friendly reform, floating a salary threshold in the mid-$30,000s.

If there’s one thing this nation needs, it’s more employer-friendly policies! Job creators after all. Have this job and work 70 hours a week without overtime! What a world.

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