REPORT: Overtime bill would guarantee living wages for workers with long hours

A bill before the Maine Legislature would give middle-class Mainers a much-needed raise by restoring lost overtime protections for 28,000 workers. The bill — LD 402, “An Act to Restore Overtime Protections for Maine Workers” — would boost middle-class wages by $8.8 million, according to new analysis by MECEP.

Labor laws enacted almost a century ago protected the 40-hour workweek and guaranteed extra pay for extra work by creating overtime pay for all but the highest-paid workers. But since the ’70s, the share of workers who receive overtime pay has declined as business interests have fought to cut overtime protections and keep wages low — even as corporations reap larger profits and pay lower taxes.

Contrary to common understanding, overtime rules apply to all workers, not just those paid on an hourly basis. All workers who earns less than a “salary threshold” set by federal and state overtime regulations must also receive time-and-a-half pay for overtime. But Maine’s salary threshold has not been adjusted to keep up with inflation, causing a growing number of salaried workers to lose overtime protections — including those with salaries as low as $36,000 annually.

LD 402 would increase the salary threshold to guarantee overtime for all workers who earn less than $55,000 annually, ensuring that no one is made to work long hours without receiving a living wage.

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