In his State of the Union address, President Obama talked quite a bit about economic policies he would prioritize in 2015. Obama talked, for example, about pay equity for women and an overdue increase to the minimum wage.
But the president also said, to Democratic applause, "We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they've earned."
Six months later, as msnbc's Adam Howard reported overnight, Obama is acting on this commitment.
President Barack Obama plans to propose a huge raise for the American people on Tuesday, a senior administration official confirmed to NBC News on Monday. Politico first reported that the White House will unveil a new overtime rule, which could increase wages for as many as 5 million Americans as soon as next year if implemented.... NBC's Kristin Donnelly reports that, if instituted, the Obama plan would be the most sweeping policy yet undertaken by the president to assist the middle class, and it would constitute the most ambitious intervention in the wage economy in at least a decade.
That's not an exaggeration. In general, though the White House has taken incremental steps where it can, the most meaningful economic measures must be approved by Congress -- and since 2011, congressional progress on the economy simply hasn't been an option.
This in turn, has left Obama to tackle modest measures, which amount to tinkering around the edges. On the minimum wage, for example, Republican lawmakers have ruled out the possibility of an increase, so Obama acted unilaterally to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors. It was a step in the right direction, of course, but the number of affected workers was fairly small.
This new overtime policy, however, is more significant specifically because it helps far more American workers.
So, how would this work? Under the status quo, there's an income threshold for mandatory overtime: $23,660. That's $455 per week. Those making more than that can be classified by employers as "managers" who are exempt from overtime rules.
The Obama administration's Labor Department has spent the last several months working on the new plan, which raises the threshold to $50,440 -- more than double the current level. It's worth noting that when officials first started talking about this in January, the number that was thrown around was $42,000, so the new policy is even more ambitious and progressive than most of us expected.
Congressional Republicans won't like any of this, of course, but this isn't a policy that needs approval from Capitol Hill. It falls within the Labor Department's regulatory powers, so the policy will be implemented whether GOP critics like it or not.
Obama's labor allies made no secret of their opposition to the president's recent trade policies, but it's safe to say workers' advocates are far more satisfied with the White House today.