President Obama's Executive Order To Overhaul Overtime Pay Is Debated On Al Jazeera; Legal Aid Comments

President Obama signed an executive order to overhaul overtime pay to help workers and strenghten the economy "because working Americans have struggled through stagnant wages for too long." Speaking for advocates, Karen Cacace, Attorney-in-Charge of The Legal Aid Society's Employment Law Unit, told Al Jazeera: " There’s no reason that somebody that’s working full time should not be making enough money to support their family."

Al Jazeera America National
March 16th, 8-9 PM

Host: Well, it’s time now for our regular Sunday night segment, The Week Ahead. President Obama’s latest executive order wants to overhaul overtime pay. Tonight, we’ll discuss who’s affected, and how it could change paychecks. We start with Courtney Kealy.

Courtney Kealy, Reporter: On Thursday, President Obama signed an executive order. His goal? Expanding overtime pay for working Americans.

President Barack Obama: If you’re working hard, you’re barely making ends meet – you should be paid overtime, . because working Americans have struggled through stagnant wages for too long.

Courtney Kealy: The order required the Labor Department to examine changes that would expand the number of employees eligible for overtime pay. The president says that strengthening overtime pay will stimulate the economy, giving workers bigger paychecks and more spending power. Proponents say the changes will benefit millions of workers, like computer technicians, fast food employees, and department store managers.

According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor & Statistics, 59% of workers in the US are paid at hourly rates. Among those paid by the hour – roughly 3.6 million, or nearly 5%, earned the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or less. The Fair Labor Standards Act demands that workers earn time-and-a-half after 40 hours a week, but under current law, most salaried workers don’t have to be paid overtime if they earn more than $455 a week. That’s less than $24,000 a year – below the federal poverty level for a family of four.

The overtime rules haven’t changed in a decade. Some economists believe that’s kept wages behind the economy. But not all agree. Business groups say it’s too expensive and will cost jobs. The National Federation of Independent Business released this statement: “The President’s plan to increase overtime pay demonstrates another anti-business policy – coming on the heels of a proposal to increase the minimum wage, increase the minimum tipped wage, rising healthcare costs, as well as every-growing, costly, and unwieldy regulations.”

Rep. John Boehner: If you don’t have a job, you’re not qualified for overtime. So, what do you get out of it? You get nothing.

Courtney Kealy: But supporters of the change think it’s a fair way to raise wages.

Karen Cacace, Legal Aid: There’s no reason that somebody that’s working full time should not be making enough money to support their family.

Courtney Kealy: Though the President signed that executive order this week, the Labor Department isn’t expected to announce what changes it will make until this fall. Courtney Kealy, Al Jazeera New York.