Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is confident that measures to update the overtime rule for salary workers will be approved.
During a press call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Brown said he was fighting for what he called the “dignity of workers.”
Updating the overtime rule, about which he wrote to the labor secretary, would allow more than 100,000 Ohioans to begin earning overtime pay.
“It’s simple, if you work extra hours you should get extra pay,” Brown said.
While the overtime pay threshold was changed during the administration of President Barack Obama, that was ultimately blocked when politicians around the country sued.
Under President Donald Trump, the rule was changed but the threshold was lower, Brown said, and excluded around half of the workers the Obama rule would have helped.
“Right now, workers earning more than $35,000 per year are not eligible to earn any overtime pay at all,” Brown said. “That means people ... like middle managers at banks and restaurants and grocery stores can be forced to work 50 hours, 60 hours and even 70 hours a week and they get not a cent in overtime.”
In his letter to the labor secretary, he wanted the threshold to be set at the 55th percentile of earnings of full-time salary workers and to have the rule automatically update.
According to his letter, that threshold would be around $82,000 by 2026.
“Think of what that means for workers and families,” Brown said in the conference call. “For workers who have already put in long hours, it would mean more money in their pockets to put food on the table, to pay down student loan debt, to save for the future.
“For others, where the employer might choose not to have them work overtime, it will mean more nights at home ... so they can spend that time sitting around the dinner table with family or, once they’re vaccinated, to take kids to a movie or a baseball game,” he continued. “It comes down to the dignity of work. If you put in the hours, hard work should pay off. That’s what the updated overtime rule would do.”
When asked about it passing, he said he was confident President Joe Biden will update the rule and he was hopeful that Congress would pass it and make it so that it couldn’t be undone by a future president “in corporate America’s pocket.”
In taking questions from reporters, Brown also touched on other subjects.
Brown said he is concerned about what’s going on at the U.S.-Mexico border, as he was when “Republican senators weren’t going down there and the problems were just as great” during the Trump administration.
“I think there are problems at the border. I think we need to get serious about passing an immigration bill,” he said. “We need to fix the problems in part by good security at the border and in part by working with Central American governments where so many of these problems are created.”
Another topic discussed was funding for community projects, something the U.S. House of Representatives has passed.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Brown said. “Who knows better than a Congressman or a senator knows ... who knows what needs the state of Ohio has?”
Done right with the right kind of accountability and disclosure, it enhances government’s efficiency, he added.
He was unsure if the senate would pass it, though he is hopeful.
“I want to make people accountable. I want it to have the name of the House or Senate member attached to it so that I’m accountable for it, I’m responsible for it both for credit and for blame,” Brown said.
He also said he would likely be in favor of a manufacturing bill that would create an Office of Manufacturing and Innovation in the White House. He is still looking at the bill but expects to sign onto it.
Brown was also asked about the race to fill the seat of Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who announced he would not be seeking re-election.
He has heard of three Democrats considering running and said he was open to them reaching out to him about their campaign.
Unsurprisingly, he did not have much to say about the Republican candidates.
“They all look like kids on a playground, sticking out their tongue out and saying ‘Donald Trump loves me more than he loves you,’” Brown said. “I would wish they would talk about issues and what they would do for the state other than ‘Donald Trump’s my friend.’”
On what he jokingly called the “important questions,” he also addressed the state of the Cleveland Indians baseball team.
“They’ve got good, young pitching; I’m not overwhelmed with their firepower at the plate,” Brown said. “Their second, third, fourth, fifth hitters look pretty good. Beyond that, I’m not so sure.”