Benefits of Overtime Rule Reform Not Only More Jobs or More Pay

My post on the Obama administration’s proposed overtime rule reform focused mainly on how it could benefit low-wage workers, even though the current rule already entitles most of them to overtime pay. For them, I argued, the story is more jobs — or perhaps in some cases, more full-time jobs.

Employers would create these jobs, rather than pay one-and-a-half times the salary rate for workers they could no longer classify as overtime-exempt. How those workers view the new rule deserves some attention too.

TalkPoverty.org profiles a woman who works for a national auto supply chain. She’s a manager and travels around, remodeling stores. She puts in 50 to 70 hours a week, but gets paid just the same as if she worked no more than 40 — just over $40,000 a year.

“I’m just so beat down,” she says. “I’m 100 pounds heavier than when I started the job.” The post nevertheless focuses on what she’d do if paid for her extra hours, as the proposed rule would require.

Well, she wants the money — needs it actually because she’s defaulting on loans her daughter took out to pay for college.

Her children are all grown now, and she apparently doesn’t have a husband or partner to come home to. She still, I suppose, has personal relationships and interests outside of work — or wishes she did.

But it seems she’d prefer the grueling scheduling — and the aforementioned impacts on her health — to adjusted duties, which might be what her employer chooses instead of paying her roughly $30,000 more a year for overtime.

Yet many workers, I think, will welcome the new overtime rule because it will mean fewer hours on the job — and lower out-of-pocket costs too. Consider what it would mean for our auto supply chain manager if her five children still lived at home.

She’d have to pay someone to care for them in the late afternoon and early evening yours, assuming they were all old for school. After-school care alone costs at least $1,100 or so — and as much as about $8,200 — per child, Child Care America reports.

And then there’d be the costs of having someone pick the kids up and care for them till next morning when she was out of town.

Alternatively, she might orchestrate care by friends, relatives and/or neighbors — generally a stressful juggling exercise. Can be guilt-ridden too, for reasons I don’t suppose I need to spell out.

Stress and guilt are both likely, I think, regardless of children, especially when overtime is unpredictable and mandatory. At least one in five workers who’d become non-exempt under the proposed rule can’t refuse to work extra hours if they want to keep their jobs. An even higher portion for those in the auto supply chain manager’s salary bracket.

These are the sorts of things that lead another woman to say that the new overtime rule “would have made everyone a lot happier in their job” if it had been in effect when she also was working as many as 70 hours a week keeping a small, short-staffed dollar store running.

Happiness in this case would have resulted from her employer’s keeping overtime in check, rather than shell out thousands of dollars more than it would have cost to have enough other workers for the low-skill tasks she had to shoulder.

We’re going to hear more about work/life balance, it seems. Jeb Bush has already set off fireworks with his remark that Americans will have to work longer hours for the economy to grow at the rate he’s promised. He’s since walked it back, but not altogether persuasively.

Clinton’s tack on growth includes, among other things, policies that would draw more women into the workforce. She alludes to higher — and equal — wages.

She also cites policies that would enable women to work “without worrying every day about how they are going to take care of their children or … a family member who gets sick” — mandatory paid sick and family leave, affordable child care and “fair scheduling.”

The last apparently refers to schedules workers know well in advance and can count on, rather than the irregular, on-and-off hours that make life so difficult for many employed by restaurants and other retail businesses.

Clinton mentions the proposed overtime rule, but as a fair pay issue, i.e., a measure to increase income. I think it also belongs in the “family-friendly” category.

I understand that some workers want — and need — all the extra income the new rule might enable them to earn. But others would welcome relief from ongoing compulsory overtime.

I know I would have. And I didn’t have children to arrange care for — and feel guilty about because I wasn’t there to help with homework, cheer at the dance recital or soccer game, etc.

The Labor Department would like to know how you who’d become eligible for overtime view the proposed reform. Likewise those of you who would have been eligible if it had been in place before.

It invites us to comment on the proposal. And having eyeballed the comments posted thus far, I’ll tell you those business associations whose gloom-and-doom predictions I earlier cited are rallying their members.

Those who support the proposal can also sign on to a petition the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress Action Fund have launched. Signers can add a personal story about how the reform would help them.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that the National Partnership for Women and Families has its own petition, calling specifically for a rule “finalized as is,” i.e., not watered down to placate the business interests that want no rule change at all.

Go for it!

 

 

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