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A construction worker takes his hard hat off

A construction worker takes his hard hat off to wipe sweat from his face while working on the MBTA Green Line in 90-plus degree weather on August 9, 2022. (Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Progressive Caucus Tells Biden to Use Executive Power to Give Millions a Raise

Ahead of Labor Day, Rep. Pramila Jayapal said "we cannot rest until we've exhausted every option to ease the burden on working people."

Jake Johnson

With Labor Day approaching, the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden to take executive action to significantly increase the number of workers eligible for overtime pay, a move that would give millions a raise at a time when corporations are imposing higher costs on consumers and reaping record profits.

"Raising the overtime threshold will give millions of workers more money in their pockets."

"President Biden and congressional Democrats have taken important steps to strengthen our economic recovery from the pandemic and lower costs for families around the country, including passing the Inflation Reduction Act to most recently canceling up to $20,000 of student debt per borrower," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the CPC, said in a statement.

"But still, too many families are being squeezed by rising prices, particularly when it comes to housing and food," Jayapal added. "We can, and must, use every tool available to provide economic relief. That is why the Progressive Caucus prioritized both student debt cancellation and raising the overtime threshold as two of our top executive action priorities and have been working consistently over months with the White House to ensure their implementation."

Under current rules established by the anti-worker Trump administration, the overtime salary threshold is $35,568 a year—meaning workers who earn more aren't federally guaranteed time-and-a-half overtime pay for working more than 40 hours in a week.

In 2016, the Obama administration proposed raising the threshold to $47,476 and indexing it to wage growth thereafter, but the Trump Labor Department nixed its predecessor's rule, denying millions of workers a pay boost.

The CPC is calling on the Biden administration to incrementally hike the threshold, increasing it to at least $82,732 by 2026 as legislative proposals to raise worker pay and bolster labor rights languish in the U.S. Senate due to opposition from corporate Democrats.

"The current level of the federal guarantee for overtime pay is so low that it covers only about 15% of full-time salaried workers—forcing millions to essentially work any hours above 40 per week for free, at a time when they cannot afford to do so," Jayapal said Tuesday.

The CPC's proposed threshold, by contrast, would cover 55% of full-time salaried workers, the Washington Democrat noted.

"President Biden has vowed to be 'the most pro-union president leading the most pro-union administration in American history,'" Jayapal noted. "Raising the overtime threshold will give millions of workers more money in their pockets at a time when they desperately need it, and be a powerful demonstration of that pro-labor commitment we know he feels."

"We cannot rest," she added, "until we've exhausted every option to ease the burden on working people."

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