During this season of reflection and gratitude, we would like to pause to acknowledge the bold steps some lawmakers and Governor Gretchen Whitmer are taking on behalf of people in Michigan who work more than 40 hours each week but who aren’t being compensated for their extra hours. Several weeks ago, the Governor announced a plan to initiate a new rule that would qualify nearly 200,000 additional salaried workers in Michigan for overtime protections. This follows strong legislative proposals introduced in both chambers spearheaded by Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (Flint) and House Minority Leader Christine Grieg (Farmington Hills). The bills have 46 cosponsors.
For decades, middle-class Michiganders have been working longer and harder than ever, but the wages they take home are falling further and further behind. The current overtime eligibility situation exacerbates those dynamics. A recently announced weak federal rule would still mean that salaried workers earning anything over $35,568 a year would not be paid time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours in a week. Fortunately, these Michigan lawmakers and Governor Whitmer are proposing much stronger standards that would help hundreds of thousands of workers and pump more than $30 million into our economy.
It’s not just numbers on a spreadsheet that make sense when it comes to this issue. We have heard from actual workers like “Julia,” the West Michigan retail manager who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. She regularly works over 50 hours a week and still struggles just to pay her bills because her employer is not required to provide overtime pay, regardless of the number of hours she works. Too many Michiganders can relate, which is why there is broad public support for expanded overtime protections.
Lawmakers and the Governor heard directly from business owners and workers who would benefit from increased overtime protections when they recently sat down together in a New Boston diner. Representatives Darrin Camilleri (Brownstown), Mari Manoogian (Birmingham), and Matt Koleszar (Plymouth) joined the Governor in listening to the concerns of local families and shared how the proposals they support would make a real difference in people’s lives. The Governor will continue to hear from residents and share support for strong pro-worker policies when she holds a telephone town hall on Tuesday, December 10 from 5:30-6:30 EST with Representatives Lori Sone (Warren), Nate Shannon (Sterling Heights), and Senator Paul Wojno (Warren).
As 2019 comes to a close and we head into an important legislative season at the beginning of 2020, it will be more important than ever to continue the fight for an economy that works for everyone. Officials in other states like Pennsylvania and Washington have already moved forward on expanded overtime protections and several others like Maine, Massachusetts and Colorado are also considering measures. We must remain united in pushing back against conservative opponents who would prefer stalling or who advocate for weakened versions. Hundreds of thousands of working people are counting on it.