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Whitmer Wants To Extend Automatic OT Pay To More Workers

October 29, 2019

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday she’d pursue administrative rules to expand how many Michigan workers would automatically qualify to receive overtime pay.

The Governor cited a previous proposal from former President Barack Obama that would’ve allowed workers making up to $47,476 to be eligible for overtime pay if they went over 40 hours a week. And she also mentioned how President Donald Trump scaled back the proposal to workers making $35,568, which Whitmer said wasn’t enough.

“President Trump took a big step backwards when he implemented a rule that leaves 200,000 Michigan workers behind,” Whitmer said in a press release today. “That’s why today I’m directing the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to take action that will extend the right to overtime pay for thousands of Michigan workers. Strengthening paychecks is good for families, good for business and good for our economy. It’s time to get it done.”

The Governor didn’t specifically say what salary threshold she has in mind for Michigan, but the press release indicated the proposal would benefit 200,000 Michiganders, the same number of people she said Trump’s scaled-back rule “leaves behind.”

Pressed for a number, Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown said the Governor hopes the “rule-making process can help us reach the right number for Michigan’s working families and help lift more people into the middle class.” 

Brown also said Obama’s proposal — which would equal $51,000 today — is a “good number to start looking at” and also mentioned a United Way report that found a family of four needs roughly $61,000 a year “to afford the basics like food, housing, and health care.”

The business community was opposed to the Obama action and was initially tentative in whether or not to support the Trump’s proposal.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Thursday criticized Whitmer for going “around the Michigan Legislature and try to impose a new wage mandate on small and family owned businesses by using the rules process” and said if the rules go through, “Michigan will be an outlier among other states because we will have an overtime rule that is more excessive than what the federal government has established.”

NFIB State Director Charlie Owens said the NFIB sued the Obama administration over its overtime rule proposal, and has said the Trump proposal would be problematic for some of its small business members.

Elsewhere, the Michigan Chamber tweeted it’s “strongly opposed to Governor Whitmer’s reckless plan to unilaterally impose a very expensive and highly counterproductive overtime mandate on Michigan’s job providers.” 

Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, jumped off that tweet to add, “this unilateral action will harm the very people it is supposed to help and it will result in fewer jobs. I’m tempted to say it is bad process, but that would be an insult to the word process. There is no process here.”

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), asked for his reaction, said, “I am happy that she requested from the Legislature through our joint committee on administrative rules our opinion on that,” referencing the fact that the rules would need to travel through the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) before final implementation.

“I look forward to see the public process play itself out through the committee process, which is how I think any rule change should be administered,” Chatfield said.

The current threshold is $23,660, meaning anyone who works more than 40 hours per week and paid a salary amount below the threshold would be required to be paid overtime under the law.

Whitmer’s proposal Thursday was the subject of a Democratic Governors Association (DGA) press release that had a subject line that read in part, “Govs Get It Done.”

Progress Michigan said Whitmer’s move would “help working families” because “when employees don’t get paid for extra work, they’re getting ripped off by their bosses and that’s not right . . . this is a great step toward ensuring hundreds of thousands of working people across Michigan are paid for the hours they’ve worked.”

The Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) said Thursday that “for too many workers in too many fields, working more than 40 hours a week has become the expectation, not the exception, and with no additional pay.”

And the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) gave kudos to Whitmer for “taking the lead on the critical pocketbook issue of overtime pay after Donald Trump broke another promise by again hurting Michigan workers instead of helping them” as the Trump administration’s overtime rule “is a slap in the face to salaried workers across the country.”

Whitmer said she’d pursue the action via a rule-making request pushed by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), which could take anywhere from six months to a year to complete.

The Governor was scheduled to make the announcement today in Detroit with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II and LEO Director Jeff Donfrio.

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