Why the New Overtime Proposal is a Win for Working Women

Liz Shuler

Liz Shuler Secretary-treasurer/Chief Financial Officer, AFL-CIO

For months we’ve heard that the economy is finally moving in the right direction, except for one hitch: Working people’s wages, particularly those of women, are not going up. One big reason: For years, millions of workers have clocked in more and more hours without ever seeing an extra cent in their paychecks. That’s wrong. Too many workers, most of whom are women, are seeing their finances stretched to the limit because even though they work overtime, they are not compensated for it.

Working women deserve better. The Department of Labor and President Barack Obama have taken the first step toward ensuring millions more women receive the overtime pay they have earned. By increasing the salary threshold to $50,444—meaning if you make less than that, you’re guaranteed protection—3.2 million more women will be automatically eligible for overtime. This is a major win for working women.

Too many women currently struggle to balance work and family life while working long hours, often receiving no financial compensation for overtime. The proposed increase in the overtime salary threshold will help ease that struggle by requiring employers to either respect the 40-hour workweek, giving working women more time to spend with their families, or compensate workers for their extra time on the job. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, this will be particularly beneficial for single mothers, as 28% of those women who currently work overtime will gain overtime protections under the new proposal. African-American and Latina women stand to gain the most under the updated protections, with nearly half of those women who are currently exempt from overtime receiving coverage under the new law. 

Nearly 40% of women serve as the primary breadwinners in their homes, and no woman who works full-time should struggle to provide for herself or her family. Sadly, that is the reality for too many women. The updated overtime rule proposed by the Department of Labor will provide millions of women and their families with the economic security they’ve worked hard to achieve. Raising wages for both men and women through increasing overtime pay will strengthen the economy overall and ensure that all working people are able to live in dignity.

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This has been reposted from the AFL-CIO.

Liz Shuler is the secretary-treasurer/chief financial officer of the AFL-CIO, one of three top-level officers for the federation and the first-ever woman elected to the position. Coming from Portland, Ore., Liz has been at the forefront of such progressive labor initiatives as green jobs programs and the fight for workers’ rights for many years, starting as a political activist and an organizer at the local union level.

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From AFL-CIO

Union Matters

Powering America

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

Fierce thunderstorms, heavy snows and unusually powerful hurricanes ravaged America’s fragile power grid and plunged millions into darkness this year.

And even as these natural disasters wreaked havoc across the country, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders sparked a surge in residential electrical demand, placing new stress on a failing system.

A long-overdue overhaul of the nation’s electrical infrastructure would not only ensure America continues functioning during a crisis but help to reinvigorate the pandemic-shattered economy.

Built in the 1950s and 60s, most of America’s electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure lives on borrowed time. Engineers never designed it to withstand today’s increasingly frequent and catastrophic storms fueled by climate change, let alone the threats posed by hackers and terrorists.

To ensure a reliable power supply for homes, schools and businesses, America needs to invest in a more resilient, higher capacity grid.

That means either burying electrical lines or insulating above-ground wires and replacing wooden utility poles with structures made of steel or concrete. Other strategies include creating a battery-storage system to provide backup power, building coastal barriers to protect infrastructure against storm surge and further diversifying into wind and solar production.

Also, a shift toward more localized generation and distribution networks would limit the impact of any one power outage.

Making these upgrades with U.S.-made materials and labor will both stimulate the economy and protect national security. American steelworkers, tradespeople and manufacturing workers have the expertise to build a power grid strong enough to weather whatever storms come America’s way.

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