After one of the worst economic crises in our history, we are seeing the fruits of the recovery. Our nation’s businesses have created more than 12 million new private-sector jobs over the last 61 months. But as a result of shifts that have taken hold over decades, too many Americans are working harder and harder just to get by, let alone to get ahead.
President Obama believes that if you work hard, you should be rewarded for your effort. That if you’re playing by the rules and taking responsibility, you should be able to provide for yourself and your family. That’s why he’s working hard to build lasting economic security for the middle class and those striving for it. It’s why he’s called for raising the minimum wage. And it’s why he directed us at the Department of Labor to address overtime pay protections — to help make sure that millions of workers are paid fairly for a long, hard day’s work.
The rules governing who is eligible for overtime have eroded over the years. As a result, millions of salaried workers have been left without the guarantee of time and a half pay for the extra hours they spend on the job and away from their families.
We’ve worked diligently over the last year to develop a proposed rule that answers the president’s directive and captures input from a diverse range of stakeholders. After extensive research, study and careful analysis, we have submitted the proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review. In the near future, the public will have an opportunity to weigh in and help us craft a final rule.
But updating the overtime rules isn’t the only fix that’s needed. As President Obama has said, it’s time to raise the national minimum wage, whose value has been eroding for more than four decades. Workers like Rupa who joined me last week on Capitol Hill to push for new legislation that would raise the wage to $12 per hour by 2020, deserve the dignity of a fair day’s pay. As a licensed beautician, Rupa struggles to support her children and grandchildren earning just over the federal minimum wage and has to rely on whatever she can earn additionally in tips.
Most of the people who would benefit from raising the wage are like Rupa — working adult women, many supporting dependent children. The proposal currently before Congress would benefit 38 million people, lifting millions out of poverty and reducing dependence on government programs.
And it’s not just workers who would benefit. Raising the wage would also give a shot in the arm to businesses boosting productivity while reducing turnover and training costs. And with consumer spending accounting for almost 70 percent of GDP, businesses know that a higher minimum wage would mean more customers with more money to spend.
Every day is a struggle for workers at the bottom of the income ladder. We need to make sure they too reap the benefits of a growing economy. While there’s been forward progress outside of Washington – 17 states have raised their own minimum wages over the last two years – you shouldn’t have to win the geographic lottery to make enough to support your family. We need a national wage floor that that rises each year, so that its purchasing power doesn’t erode with time.
Minimum wage and overtime – they’re about rewarding hard work, and ensuring that the economy works for everyone and creates broadly-shared prosperity.
Follow Secretary Perez on Twitter as @LaborSec.
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