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Arizonans Should Speak Up On Overtime Rule, says Labor Official

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Rebekah Friend, Arizona AFL-CIO executive director, thinks Arizonans comment on the U.S. Labor Department's proposal to extend overtime benefits to more workers. Credit: Arizona AFL-CIO
Rebekah Friend, Arizona AFL-CIO executive director, thinks Arizonans comment on the U.S. Labor Department's proposal to extend overtime benefits to more workers. Credit: Arizona AFL-CIO
 By Lori Abbott/Troy Wilde, Contact
August 19, 2015

PHOENIX - The state's top union official thinks Arizonans should offer their input on the U.S. Labor Department's proposed update to the "overtime rule" before the comment period ends in early September.

The overtime rule, which raises the overtime pay threshold to people making slightly more than $50,000 a year, would help millions of working Americans, especially women and people of color, said Rebekah Friend, executive director of the Arizona AFL-CIO, which represents about 180,000 workers in the state. She said public comment is a vital part of the process, "so that the Department of Labor hears real stories about why this is important to do, and maybe some stories about how the regulation currently has hurt a worker."

Comments can be made at regulations.gov. The current overtime salary threshold is $455 a week, or about $23,000 per year. The Labor Department says this means that in some cases, salaried managers who work long hours may be earning less per hour than the employees they supervise.

According to opponents, the action will force businesses to cut hours and make more positions part-time to avoid paying more overtime. Friend said she hopes that doesn't happen, and she notes earning more money is always good for Arizona families and the economy.

"That goes for food and shoes, and rent or mortgage payments, and health care," she said, "and so, it benefits children, because their parents have more disposable income in order to spend on the essentials."

The Labor Department estimated that its new rule would extend overtime protections to nearly 5 million workers within the first year of implementation. The action resulted after President Obama directed the U.S. labor secretary last year to modernize and streamline the overtime regulations for executive, administrative and professional employees.

The overtime rule is online at dol.gov. The Arizona AFL-CIO website is azaflcio.org.

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