President Obama on Thursday unveiled his latest initiative to boost workers' pay, saying he wanted to “restore the common-sense principle behind overtime.”
Obama signed an executive order directing the Labor Department to develop new rules to expand the number of Americans who can receive overtime pay. The president was joined by workers he said would benefit from the strengthened rules at a White House event.
The move is the latest executive action Obama has taken this year to push his economic agenda in the face of opposition from the GOP-controlled House. He has signed orders raising the minimum wage for new federal contract workers and created new public-private partnerships on manufacturing and education.
Obama has said that he will work with Congress on his economic agenda where he can but will move unilaterally where lawmakers fail to act.
“I’m going to do what I can on my own to raise wages for more hardworking Americans,” the president pledged.
“I’m going to use my pen to give more Americans the chance to earn the overtime pay they deserve,” he continued. “If you have to work more, you should get paid more.”
The president is asking Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to expand the number of workers who qualify for overtime by revising an exemption that allows employers to avoid paying overtime to employees deemed to have managerial positions and who are paid more than $455 a week.
Obama said that exemption had been unfairly extended to cover many workers.
“Millions of Americans are not getting the overtime pay they deserve,” he said.
“It doesn’t make sense that in some cases, this rule makes it possible for salaried workers to be paid less than the minimum wage,” the president said.
He added that revising the rules would also benefit those companies that paid their workers good wages.
“It’s not fair when business owners who treat their workers fairly can be undercut by competitors,” he said.
The move is likely to be opposed by many business groups and conservative lawmakers who warn that raising salary costs could weaken job growth and hurt small businesses.
But Obama said that the administration was “going to do this the right way and consult with both workers and businesses.”
Obama said that “Americans have spent too long working more and getting less in return.”
“This is going to make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans,” he pledged.