Republicans in Congress want to preserve slave wages for underpaid workers and they are lining up behind proposed federal legislation that would roll back Obama administration efforts to require employers to fairly compensate more people for overtime labor.
With support from 187 of the 535 members of the House and Senate, critics say the legislation must be taken seriously.
“Legislation to reverse a Labor Department rule governing exemption from minimum wage and overtime hours requirements would allow an employer to continue making workers put in time for which they are not paid,” said Lisa McCormick, a New Jersey Democrat who is urging people to pressure GOP politicians from the Garden State to oppose their colleague’s effort. “Working without pay is slavery.”
New Jersey is not currently represented among the 149 Republicans in Congress who want to preserve slave wages for underpaid employees, but the legislation in popular among representatives from neighboring states.
In New York, Reps. Chris Collins, [R-NY-27], Elise M. Stefanik, [R-NY-21], and Tom Reed, [R-NY-23] have also cosponsored the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg, [R-MI-7].
Seven Pennylvania congressmen have embraced the slave wage measure, including Reps. Glenn Thompson, [R-PA-5], Scott Perry, [R-PA-4], Mike Kelly, [R-PA-3], Charles W. Dent, [R-PA-15], Lou Barletta, [R-PA-11], Bill Shuster, [R-PA-9], and Michael G. Fitzpatrick, [R-PA-8], have all cosponsored the legislation.
A companion bill introduced by Sen. Tim Scott, [R-SC] includes 36 Senate cosponsors, all Republicans from outside New Jersey.
Octavio Mantilla, co-owner of the Besh Restaurant Group in New Orleans, testified against the labor rule, which would make nearly 5 million workers now exempt eligible for overtime pay.
Mantilla’s partner, celebrity chef John Besh, reportedly has net worth of $8 million.
Employees earning more than $23,660 may not be entitled to overtime pay for work exceeding a 40-hours in a week, under the current standard.
Doubling the pay threshold for exempt status is particularly significant in the restaurant industry, where 11 million restaurant workers have not gotten a raise in 25 years.
For the past quarter century, the federal tipped minimum wage has been stuck at an abysmal $2.13 per hour.
McCormick says she hopes public outrage and corporate embarrassment will provoke lawmakers to shut down efforts “to make slavery an accepted part of the American business model.”
“I’m not counting on that happening,” McCormick said. “But U.S. taxpayers should try to stop injustice and demand laws that reflect our values.”
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