September 24, 2019; NPR, “All Things Considered”
Nonprofits that underpay their workers should pay attention: The Labor Department has raised the salary threshold under which workers must be paid overtime from $23,660 to $35,568. The change will go into effect on January 1st.
The change is intended to protect workers who are salaried but get low wages from being forced to work more than 40 hours in a week without being paid for their extra time. As we know, on both the local and federal level, many nonprofits have argued against overtime rules, claiming that they will be less able to do great work if they are not allowed to pay poverty-scale wages.
Under this measure, the number of workers eligible for overtime will rise by about 1.3 million. The original proposal, put forward under the Obama administration, would have raised the threshold to $47,000 and had an impact on nearly three times as many workers.
Heidi Shierholz, former Labor Department chief economist in the Obama administration, says, “It’s a missed opportunity, in the sense that millions more could have been helped,” she says, pointing out that the cap under the new law will not grow with inflation.
New overtime rules have already been adopted in New York and California, where salary thresholds were set at around $50,000. Bills in Colorado and Pennsylvania are still in process. In the state of Washington State, a number of well-heeled nonprofits have been opposing the measure.
We have published a number of critiques of this kind of nonprofit resistance to wage justice over the years, including the classic, “Is Exploiting Workers Key to Your Nonprofit Enterprise Model? The New Overtime Requirements.” Maybe it is time for a quick review, even as states raise the salary ceiling even farther than the Trump administration was willing to do.—Ruth McCambridge