The Worst American Holiday

4 mins read

This Friday 10/25 is Overtime Day, marking the time of year when the average American worker starts working for free.

by Paul Constant

Please indulge me for a moment by taking this pop quiz:

  1. Are you an American?
  2. Are you on salary?
  3. Do you earn more than $23,660 per year?
  4. Do you often work more than 40 hours per week?

If you answered “yes” to these four questions, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that this Friday, October 25th, is a national holiday celebrating your accomplishments. The bad news is that the holiday marks a day of infamy for the American worker.

Let me explain: say you meet or exceed an average of 49 hours per week on the job, which is the average workweek for salaried employees. Say you’re part of the 93 percent of Americans who don’t qualify for overtime. That means you earn zero additional pay for nearly 20 percent of your workweek. Instead of earning time-and-a-half for every hour worked over 40, the way it was when the American economy was at its strongest, most of us don’t even pick up an extra penny in our paychecks for those additional hours.

When you extrapolate that 49-hour weekly schedule out to a year, you’ve worked a full year’s worth of 40-hour workweeks by October 24th, and October 25th puts us into unpaid overtime for the rest of the year.

So Happy Overtime Day! For the average American, this Friday is the day when they start working for free.

This is about more than paychecks. Overtime Day is also about reclaiming your time. Back when 62 percent of all Americans qualified for overtime, most workers put in somewhere between 41 and 42 hours per week. We’re way more productive than workers were back then, but we’re working way more hours than those workers did, too. It makes sense: since your bosses don’t have to pay extra for your overtime, why would they ever think twice about demanding you to work longer hours?

Luckily, there’s a glimmer of hope for some workers. Washington state Governor Jay Inslee’s Department of Labor and Industries is currently looking into raising the overtime threshold significantly higher than the national threshold — much higher than the paltry overtime update that the Trump Administration is adopting. This means that in Washington state, at least, Overtime Day might finally be a thing of the past.

Hopefully, Washington state will lead the way on a stronger overtime threshold, the way we led the fight to a higher minimum wage. This is America, and nobody should have to work for free. These high labor standards are part of the reason why we’re always near the top of the list of best states to do business, the best state in the nation for workers, and the plain old best state in the union. By keeping our standards high, we strengthen our economy and ensure that everyone’s time counts.

Happy Overtime Day, Washington state! Here’s hoping it’s your last.

Originally posted on Civic Skunk Works. Re-posted with permission.

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