Jeb Bush Wants Americans To “Work Longer Hours.” We Need To Fix Overtime Pay Instead.
Jeb Bush hasn’t offered any real policy solutions to jump start economic growth. But yesterday, in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Bush provided some insight: “People are going to have to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families.” Bush has apparently not gotten the memo: Americans are already working long hours, and they are incredibly productive. They just aren’t getting paid more for it. But there is an important step we can take to help address that problem: fixing overtime pay.
There are three main points that deflate Bush’s assertion faster than a New England Patriots football. First, the relationship between Americans’ productivity and their economic security has eroded severely in recent decades. Workers were 25 percent more productive in 2012 than they were in 2000, but over the same period the median wage did not increase at all. Second, we already work incredibly hard. American workers put in more hours than any country in the world except South Korea. And even since the start of the Great Recession, the average number of hours full-time American workers work has remained at an astonishing 47 hours a week.
Third, and most importantly, Jeb’s comment implies that working more hours will lead to a higher paycheck. That isn’t true for millions of Americans because our overtime rules have eroded so significantly. In fact, in 1975, more than 60 percent of full-time salaried workers were guaranteed time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours per week. Today, just 8 percent do. The only workers currently guaranteed overtime pay are those making less than $23,660 per year, which is below the poverty level for a family of four.
That can change for nearly 5 million workers thanks to a new overtime rule introduced by President Obama that will raise the salary threshold to $50,440 (coincidentally, that’s roughly the same amount as Jeb Bush’s average speaking fee). The higher threshold to qualify for overtime pay means that the millions of Americans who are already working longer hours will get fairly compensated for their work, or else businesses will hire more workers instead of overworking employees.
It’s not done yet, however. The draft rule is now in an important comment period and special interest groups are already working to weaken it. So if you are frustrated by conservatives continuing to undervalue American workers and saying we just need to work harder and longer, here is the best thing you can do: Visit FixOvertime.org and submit a comment directly to Secretary Tom Perez voicing your support for the new rule to fix overtime.
BOTTOM LINE: Americans are already working hard and wages are not keeping up. Instead of working even more hours, as Governor Jeb Bush suggested yesterday, Americans need updated overtime rules to ensure we are getting fairly compensated for the work we are already doing.
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