State union leaders says changes in federal overtime rules set to take effect later this year are long overdue, and it’s wrong for Wisconsin to join efforts to block them.
Wisconsin is one of 21 states that filed a federal lawsuit this week challenging a U.S. Department of Labor policy that effectively doubles the threshold for when salaried workers must be paid overtime. Known as the “white collar exemption,” it currently keeps businesses from having to pay overtime to workers who make above $23,660 a year. Under the rules set to take effect in December, that threshold would increase to annual salaries of $47,476.
Opponents of the law argue President Obama’s administration overstepped its authority in making the change, while warning that it could have widespread negative effects on the economy by forcing businesses to cut back hours or layoff staff. In joining the lawsuit this week, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel argued states “must be able to set their own priorities and policies, and not be forced to take directive from an unchecked Washington D.C. bureaucracy attempting to establish unprecedented power.”
Wisconsin AFL-CIO secretary treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale says the update will benefit thousands of workers in the state though, and keep lower wage workers from being abused. She says those at the low end of the pay scale right now can currently be asked to work 60 to 70 hours a week, but still only be paid that base rate. “That’s unfair, it’s unsafe for these workers,” she argues.
Bloomingdale notes that the current rules had not been updated since the 1970s and were long overdue. “It’s a good thing for workers, it’s a good thing for our economy to make sure when people are working that they are fairly compensated.”