A Toolkit to Help Restore Overtime for the Middle Class

This Toolkit was developed in partnership with Civic Action.  

The middle class just keeps getting weaker and weaker. A key reason: salaried workers have become accustomed to a set amount of pay for hours that often extend far beyond 40 hours per week. This is not how it’s always been. Workers aren’t getting paid their due wages in the way that they used to: 

  • In the 1975, 63% of salaried workers qualified for Overtime Pay for hours above 40 per week.
  • Today, just 7% of salaried workers qualify for Overtime Pay.
  • And yet, today, 45% of workers work more than 45 hours a week.

The overtime threshold is the salary level at which businesses can force people to work more without paying any additional wages. The national threshold, which is also the Washington state threshold, is currently $23,660 (that’s the equivalent of $11.38 an hour) and it covers less than 7% of workers.

Washington State is stepping up

On June 4th, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries announced a rule change to restore overtime regulations within the state. The new rule would raise the overtime threshold to 2.5 times the minimum wage in 2025, which is a salary of about $73,000. This is an opportunity to rectify our failures and modernize this important worker protection for Washingtonians, while also setting an example for the rest of the country.

This is the most important progressive workforce policy issue to take on since the minimum wage. It’s worth fighting for.  

In the coming weeks and months, the State will hear public comment and provide the opportunity for testimony at public hearings. This isn’t just important for Washington State. By taking this step, Washington State is setting the example for states throughout our nation.  

Take Action!

  • Stay Informed! Check out the Labor & Industries (L&I) web page HERE describing the proposed rule change.
  • Stay Up To Date! Sign up HERE to receive updates about how you can engage and make sure that this incredibly important rule becomes law.
  • Submit Public Comments! Appeal to L&I directly, and show your support for the proposed rule to restore overtime. L&I must receive your comments by 5 p.m. September 6, 2019. Options for submission:
    • Via web form (easiest!): HERE
    • Via email: HERE 
    • Via fax at 360-902-5300
    • Via mail: Employment Standards Program, P.O. Box 44510, Olympia, WA 98504-4510.
  • Pack the Public Hearings! Sessions are scheduled throughout Washington State during July (see chart below). Show up to show your support for restoring overtime. If these sessions are packed with supporters, it will send a strong message to the state that Washingtonians are ready to lead on this issue.

Join the Restore Overtime Campaign on social media!

Here are some talking points, videos and graphics to share on social media, developed by Civic Action and DemCast. Please jump in and amplify this campaign!

Key signup link to share:
  • #RestoreOT
  • #RestoreOvertime
  • #TakeBackOurTime
  • #FightforOT
  • #OurTimeMatters
Figures to tag in posts:
  • Washington Governor Jay Inslee
Graphics to share:

(Click Images to Download)

Videos to share:

Video Download: https://videos.files.wordpress.com/bqE8vUiU/restoreot-01_hd.mp4 (author: Cris Palomino)

Trae Crowder Video Download: https://videos.files.wordpress.com/2hYFjt9p/trae_full_final_hd.mp4

Video Download: https://videos.files.wordpress.com/OcIK81rE/ot-is-longer-hours-less-pay_hd.mp4

Video Download: https://demwritepress.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/OT-is-Gov-at-its-Best-1.mp4

Video Download: https://videos.files.wordpress.com/7NgzVwOt/ot-is-historically-low_hd.mp4

Important Things to Know About The Overtime Threshold

What exactly is overtime?

The overtime threshold is the salary level at which workers are no longer eligible to be paid overtime. If you are paid more than the threshold then you are exempt from overtime laws, and your employer can force you to work more than full time without paying you any additional wages. The national threshold, which is also the Washington state threshold, is currently $23,660 (that’s the equivalent of $11.38 an hour, less than the minimum wage). Salaried workers who make more than that are ineligible for overtime pay, and any additional hours worked beyond full-time are effectively unpaid.

Why does it matter?

Overtime is the minimum wage for the middle class. It’s a fundamental labor standard necessary to protect employees from exploitative practices. It used to be that if you worked more than 40 hours in a week, your employer would pay you time-and-a-half in exchange for your labor. That was the social and legal contract in the 1970s, back when 62% of full-time salaried workers were eligible for overtime. But over the past four decades, we’ve allowed the overtime threshold to be eroded by inflation. The current salary threshold, $23,660, covers just 7% of salaried full-time workers in the U.S.

When you add up all the unpaid overtime, employers are now squeezing five jobs’ worth of work out of every four workers, robbing the economy of tens of millions of jobs and keeping workers from their families and communities. The average salaried worker works a 49-hour week. At Washington’s median income of $84,594, that’s about $19,000 in effectively donated wages every year.

What’s going on right now?

On June 4th, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries announced a rule change to restore overtime pay. The new rule would raise the overtime threshold to 2.5 times the minimum wage in 2022, which is a salary of $70,000+. The threshold would be phased in to allow businesses to adjust. This is our opportunity to rectify our failures and modernize this important worker protection for Washingtonians.

What’s at stake?

The proposed overtime threshold would make Washington a national labor standards leader, and put us closer to eventually restoring overtime protections to the levels intended by the promise of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which set the initial overtime threshold at three times the minimum wage.

The new threshold would vastly improve the lives of working people, giving them the work-life balance they deserve. And it will help our economy, too﹣when workers have more money, businesses have more customers and hire more workers. A thriving, healthy, and growing middle class isn’t a consequence of economic growth — it’s the primary source and cause of it. That’s why what’s good for the middle class is good for Washington’s economy. And high overtime standards have always been good for the American middle class. </span></p>

Overtime Myths, Debunked!

Myth: An overtime threshold this high will hurt businesses and nonprofits.

Forty years of inaction have necessitated a large increase to restore these protections to the levels they once were. It is important to note that businesses and nonprofits once existed and thrived under overtime rules that covered the majority of full-time salaried workers, and businesses and nonprofits will again be able to thrive under updated rules that cover the same majority of full-time salaried workers. This is not to say that phase-in time is unnecessary. Nonprofits and for-profits alike will require time to adjust, but that should not lead us to back away from our obligation to restore these protections to the majority of workers.

Myth: we should wait for the federal government to update national OT protections first.

This argument is out of step with the desires of Washingtonians and our state’s long-standing leadership on workers’ rights. Washington is a national leader on minimum wage, sick leave, paid family leave, equal pay, and many other important worker protections. The people of Washington expect nothing less for overtime protections. In fact, a December 2018 poll showed that 76% of Washington voters strongly support restoring overtime protections.

Myth: this increase is too big. We should go smaller.

If anything, we should go bigger. If the overtime threshold covered as many salaried Washington workers as were covered when the American middle-class was at its strongest, 62%, it would be $80,000﹣consistent with the 3-to-1 overtime threshold to minimum wage ratio that had been the norm before 1975. Employers at the time understood that they had two courses of action if they didn’t want to pay overtime: they could either raise employee wages above the threshold, or they could hire more employees to make the workload manageable within a 40-hour work week pay structure. Either way, employees﹣and, therefore, the economy﹣won.

Myth: I don’t need an overtime rule. People can just refuse to work overtime.

Well, sure﹣if they’re open to the possibility of losing their jobs. But in an economy where almost 70% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, that simply isn’t an option for most people.