Heya BMG community! It’s been a long, long time. I’m now in a totally new role – Executive Director of the New England Jewish Labor Committee. The NEJLC works to get the Jewish community to support the labor movement and issues facing working families, and get the labor movement to support the Jewish community.
One issue that we’ve been paying attention to this legislative session is the issue of overtime for low income to moderate income salaried workers. Here’s some background:
Almost all workers paid by the hour are automatically covered by overtime protection. For workers paid a salary, however, weak, outdated, and confusing overtime laws make it easy for employers to require them to work 50, 60, or more hours in a week without paying them anything more than if they had worked 40 hours. When this happens, salaried workers end up sacrificing their personal time—for free. …
Many people—including salaried workers themselves—are surprised to learn that salaried workers are eligible for overtime at all; we tend to think overtime protection is exclusively for hourly workers. In fact, salaried workers have been legally entitled to overtime ever since the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act as part of the New Deal.
There is a bill to protect overtime – and stop the Trump Administration’s rollback of Obama era protections of overtime compensation. Below, please find my testimony to the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in support of Senate 1092/House 1609. Thanks for reading it! And if you feel so moved, please consider calling your State Rep or Senator in support of this bill.
My name is Ari Fertig and I am here to testify in support of House 1609 / Senate 1092 sponsored by Representative Dan Donahue and Senator Jason Lewis. As the Executive Director of the New England Jewish Labor Committee, I think about this bill from a perhaps different lens.At its heart, this bill would update Massachusetts’ state overtime law to restore overtime pay protections to low and moderate income workers when they work more than 40 hours a week – and protect Massachusetts workers against the roll-back of overtime protections by the Trump Administration.
Managing hours worked is a core tenant of the Jewish faith. We hold the Sabbath sacred for that reason – there is a time to work, and a time to rest. Even during the course of the work-week, we believe in setting a fair compensation for the hours worked. It goes against our Jewish values to pay our workers unfairly. Treating workers with dignity is a key commandment. The Torah commands us:
“Do not oppress the hired laborer who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your people or one of the sojourners in your land within your gates.”
To take away overtime pay simply because individuals are salaried workers is a form of this oppression. To give you one example: An Assistant manager at a fast food restaurant may get say $2 an hour more than a low wage hourly worker. But because the Assistant Manager is paid a salary instead of an hourly wage, they can’t get overtime – while the hourly worker can, even with quite similar salaries when you look at how much they make over the course of the year. Why should this be the case? The answer of course is that it should not.
In Massachusetts, this bill would make an estimated 435,000 low to moderate wage salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. For workers whose employers are willing to pay time and a half beyond 40 hours, that is food on the table for 435,000 workers, that’s making rent or not for 435,000 workers, in short that is justice for 435,000 workers.
This is a bill about overtime, which is to say that it’s a bill about time, which is to say it’s a bill about our humanity. We all only have so much time on this earth. Time to spend with our family and friends. Time to enjoy nature. Time to contribute to our communities. Time to be busy, or time simply to be. The more we work, the less time we have for ourselves and our loved ones. We have overtime laws because when workers give up personal time for their job, that time becomes more valuable – that’s why workers are paid time and a half for overtime. To not compensate workers for overtime is to steal time, which in the end is all we have.
I urge the committee to stand up for low and moderate income working families and support this bill. I do so as a person of faith and as a citizen of this Commonwealth who believes in justice for all. I hope you will agree with me that everyone deserves fair pay for the hours they work.