Tag Archives: pay

US court blocks overtime expansion pay rule for 4 million

A federal court this week blocked the start of a rule that would have made an estimated 4 million more American workers eligible for overtime pay heading into the holiday season, dealing a major blow to the Obama administration’s effort to beef up labor laws it said weren’t keeping pace with the times.

The U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas granted the nationwide preliminary injunction, saying the Department of Labor’s rule exceeds the authority the agency was delegated by Congress. Overtime changes set to take effect Dec. 1 are now unlikely be in play before vast power shifts to a Donald Trump administration, which has spoken out against Obama-backed government regulation and generally aligns with the business groups that stridently opposed the overtime rule.

“Businesses and state and local governments across the country can breathe a sigh of relief now that this rule has been halted,” said Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who led the coalition of 21 states and governors fighting the rule and has been a frequent critic of what he characterized as Obama administration overreach. “Today’s preliminary injunction reinforces the importance of the rule of law and constitutional government.”

The regulation sought to shrink the so-called “white collar exemption” that allows employers to skip overtime pay for salaried administrative or professional workers who make more than about $23,660 per year. Critics say it’s wrong that some retail and restaurant chains pay low-level managers as little as $25,000 a year and no overtime — even if they work 60 hours a week.

Under the rule, those workers would have been eligible for overtime pay as long as they made less than about $47,500 a year, and the threshold would readjust every three years to reflect changes in average wages.

The Department of Labor said the changes would restore teeth to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which it called “the crown jewel of worker protections in the United States.” Inflation weakened the act: overtime protections applied to 62 percent of U.S. full-time salaried workers in 1975 but just 7 percent today.

The agency said it’s now considering all its legal options.

“We strongly disagree with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work for millions of hardworking Americans,” the labor department said in a statement. “The department’s overtime rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rulemaking process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule.”

Opponents fought hard against the rule, saying it would increase compliance costs for employers who would have to track hours more meticulously and would force companies to cut employees’ base pay to compensate for overtime costs that kick in more frequently.

“This overtime rule is totally disconnected from reality,” said Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. “The one-size-fits-all doubling of the salary threshold demonstrated ignorance regarding the vast differences in the cost-of-living across America.”

The court agreed with plaintiffs that the rule could cause irreparable harm if it wasn’t stopped before it was scheduled to take effect next week.

The Department of Labor could appeal the ruling, which might end up at a Supreme Court that includes some Trump appointees.

But the injunction takes political pressure off the incoming administration at an opportune time, according to labor law professor Ruben Garcia of UNLV’s Boyd School of Law. With no new overtime changes kicking in Dec. 1, Trump can accept the status quo and won’t have to risk angering workers by walking back overtime benefits shortly after employees start receiving them.

His administration could choose to make its own rule changes through the lengthy administrative process. Or Congress could amend labor laws.

The impending rule wasn’t front and center in the presidential campaign, but Trump did tell the news site Circa in August that he would love to see a delay or carve-out for small businesses in the overtime regulation. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan was more vocal against it, saying it would be an “absolute disaster” for the economy and was being rushed through by Obama to boost his political legacy.


Study shows gender gap narrowing in book coverage

A new study of literary publications finds that men remain the majority of book reviewers and authors reviewed, but the gap is narrowing.

VIDA, otherwise known as Women in Literary Arts, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that The New Republic and Harper’s were among those showing notable increases in the representation of women in their book coverage. VIDA chair Amy King said the report showed some “upticks worth noting,” but also cautioned against possible backlash that “happens with increased awareness.”

“We see regular improvements, some large and some incremental, which makes us cautiously optimistic; however even great strides seem to also regularly take one or two steps back,” said King, noting, for instance, that men outnumbered women by 2-to-1 for The Paris Review’s book coverage in 2015. Two years earlier, the ratio was nearly even.

Debate sparked

VIDA (www.vida.org) sparked an extensive debate in the book world when it released its first study, in 2011, showing vast disparities between men and women at such elite and politically liberal publications as The New Yorker, Harper’s and The New York Review of Books, where more than 80 percent of the reviewers in 2010 were men and a similar percentage of the books were written by men. As in previous years, the current charts were compiled by a team of VIDA volunteers.

In an email to The Associated Press, Paris Review editor Lorin Stein said that year-to-year changes in gender representation were a matter of “about a dozen poems in one column or the other, a handful of stories.” He noted that the magazine has given four of its last five Plimpton Prizes for fiction, awarded to outstanding new writers who have appeared in the magazine, to women: Emma Cline, Ottessa Moshfegh, April Ayers Lawson and Amie Barrodale.

“But that’s not why those women got the prize,” he said. “They got it because they were the best new voices in the magazine. That’s just how we work.”

He also cited the online Paris Review Daily, which, he said, consistently publishes more work by women.

“Again — and I want to stress this — we’re not counting heads. It just works out that way,” he said.

At The New Republic, just nine books reviewed in 2010 were by women, compared with 55 by men. In 2015, a year marked by numerous staff changes amid contention with owner Chris Hughes, 24 books reviewed were by women and 19 by men. At The New York Times Book Review, the number of women book reviewers jumped from 295 in 2010 to 475 last year, six higher than the total of male book reviewers.

At Harper’s, the byline gap between men and women narrowed from 65-13 in 2010 to 64-50 in 2015. “Harper’s overall numbers reflect editor Christopher Beha’s public commitment to improvement,” King said.

At The New York Review of Books, the man-woman ratio for reviewers has changed just slightly, from 200-39 in 2010 to 216-52 last year. The disparity at The New Yorker also has become smaller, although male bylines are still far more common, 453-232, compared with a nearly 3-1 margin in 2011.

The New Yorker’s editorial director, Henry Finder, called the numbers “sobering.” He added that he was “pretty hopeful” the results for 2016 “will look less unequal.”

Vida defines its mission as increasing “critical attention to contemporary women’s writing as well as further transparency around gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture.”

Obama touts federal overtime rule in Wisconsin

President Barack Obama put a political edge on his push for more overtime pay for U.S. workers on July 2 by touting it in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker has made a name for himself by clashing with labor unions.

Walker, who is expected to officially announce his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination the week of July 13, greeted Air Force One as it landed in La Crosse.

They shook hands and chatted amiably on the tarmac.

But Walker has already criticized the overtime proposal Obama’s Labor Department made earlier this week.

The plan would make nearly 5 million more American workers eligible for overtime pay.

Early in his tenure as governor in 2011, Walker burnished his credentials with conservatives in his party by pushing for a law to limit the collective-bargaining rights of public sector employees. He survived a union-backed recall election in 2012.

Obama’s proposed overtime rule is widely opposed by businesses and could face legal challenges, but it was heralded by workers’ groups. Labor unions are a traditional ally of Obama, a Democrat, though that relationship was tested in June in Congress in a struggle over international trade.

Carrying the overtime-rule fight into Wisconsin gave Obama a chance to mend fences with unions, which last month unsuccessfully opposed his quest for “fast-track” power to craft a proposed 12-nation Pacific Rim trade treaty.

“The change in this overtime rule in a way that could potentially allow up to 5 million Americans to get a more fair paycheck, again, is an illustration that most of the time, when it comes to fighting for middle-class workers, the Obama administration and organized labor are on the same side,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on July 1.

Editor’s note: Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton.

Wisconsin joins in Dec. 5 strikes for living wages

Fast-food workers across the country are going on strike today (Dec. 5) to demand better wages. Strikes are taking place in more than 130 cities in the United States.

A statement from Fast Food Forward said, “Workers will go on strike in every region of the continental United States and will be joined by supporters rallying in an additional 100 cities, as the fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation continues to grow. Workers are expected to strike at the nation’s major national fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC.”

Wisconsin is joining in the campaign, with minimum-wage workers and their allies demonstrating in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and elsewhere.

Also, Wisconsin Jobs Now is circulating a petition calling for a living wage for workers in Milwaukee.

The petition states: “Milwaukee was once a bastion of the middle class. Sadly, over the last 30 years, good-paying jobs have been replaced by low-wage service sector positions that trap 196,000 Milwaukee-area workers in poverty. It doesn’t have to be this way – especially since a large number of these jobs are paid for with public tax dollars.

“Milwaukee must lead the way in the fight for good jobs. We urge our elected officials to take action to raise wages, because workers should be paid enough so that they can raise a family without public assistance.

“Let’s ensure that public resources are used to create good jobs.”

Meanwhile, inside the Beltway, the president on Dec. 4 restated his call for raising the minimum wage in a speech on economic mobility and income inequality.

Some members of Congress also called for better wages, including in their focus a plea for companies to do better by their employees. Fifty-three members of Congress wrote to McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson stating, “Too many hardworking families are being forced to depend on poverty-level wages. Paying fair wages and putting more spending money in the hands of consumers will strengthen our economy.”

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