New overtime rules will finally pay workers what they deserve

Every week, thousands of Mainers work overtime—more than 40 hours per week—to make ends meet. Many workers, even after working 50 to 60 hours per week, still cannot afford basic living expenses for their families.

Finally, new federal overtime rules assure that employers will compensate these workers for their extra time. In May, President Obama signed the new rules that will increase the salary threshold below which all workers are eligible for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476. This marks one of the largest and monumental changes in labor standards in the last 40 years, and the first modifications of federal overtime rules since 2004.

Under the new rules, which help guarantee that workers receive time and a half pay for additional hours, approximately 46,000 Mainers will receive the salary that they actually earned, including 30,000 workers whom employers have previously misclassified to restrict their overtime benefits.

The new overtime rules would protect nearly one in four Maine workers and 12.5 million nationally. That means more families will receive the compensation they need to afford basic living expenses. And as these families become more financially secure, their spending at local businesses will increase. Thus, these updated rules help all of Maine’s workers and consumers, and not just those working overtime.

This includes 40 percent of workers in some of Maine’s largest industries like commercial fishing, farming, and forestry.

The new rules are on course to begin this coming December, and it is about time—pun intended. In 1975, overtime rules covered over 60 percent of salaried workers who earned salaries beneath the overtime threshold. In 2015, the rule covered just eight percent of salaried workers.

These figures are even more staggering when compared to worker efficiency. Worker productivity in Maine has skyrocketed—increasing by 52 percent in the past 30 years. Meanwhile, worker compensation has grown only 28 percent. These overtime changes, in conjunction with the hope for a minimum wage increase this November, will make worker compensations more proportionate to their contribution to Maine’s economy.

The new overtime rules are a big win for hardworking Mainers and cannot come soon enough. But before the new rules can take effect, there is enough time for Congress to add riders and other bills that would stop or slow implementation, and in turn continue depriving workers their earned pay. So for the sake of the millions of workers nationwide and here in Maine, we strongly encourage timely implementation. Fixing the overtime rules is a practical and fair solution for helping Maine workers finally get paid for the hours they actually worked, reward their efficiency and productivity, and in the process, assist in strengthening the economic security of working families.