Would Earlier Implementation of the New Overtime Rule Have Changed the Election Outcome?

Andrew Strom

Andrew Strom is an Associate General Counsel of Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ in New York, NY.

Since the Presidential election was so close, it’s very tempting to engage in thought experiments about how different actions might have changed the outcome.  And for all of Hillary Clinton’s flaws as a candidate, exit polls suggest that the election can be viewed as a referendum on the Obama Administration.  For instance, 63% of the electorate said that the condition of the national economy was either “not good,” or “poor,” and Trump carried this group by a 63% to 31% margin.  In addition, only 31% of voters said that their financial situation was better now than it was four years ago.

While the economy has improved significantly since the devastation caused by the 2008 financial crisis, many workers still have not caught up to where they were before the financial crisis.  And for workers struggling to make ends meet in a small town in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, it can be hard to see the ways in which President Obama has improved their lives.  It may well be that they are benefitting from the Affordable Care Act, but if they had insurance before the ACA passed, they may feel that the law has not done enough to contain costs, and they may not notice some of the benefits the law given them. As I have thought about the concrete ways that workers stand to lose when Donald Trump replaces President Obama, one thing that has jumped out at me is the new Department of Labor overtime rule.  The new rule, which goes into effect on December 1st (unless it is enjoined), will extend overtime protections to 4.2 million workers by raising the salary threshold for overtime eligibility from $23,660 a year to $47,476 a year.  This means that in small towns across America, assistant managers of retail stores, low-level supervisors, and other moderate income workers who are paid on a salary basis will either experience a reduction in hours or a wage increase.  These individuals can no longer be required to work a nine or ten hour day without receiving any extra compensation.

The White House put together a handy chart with a state-by-state breakdown of the number of workers affected by the new regulation.  The number of new workers who will gain overtime protection in four key swing states are as follows : Florida, 330,000; Michigan, 101,000; Pennsylvania, 184,000; and Wisconsin, 68,000.  It is, of course, impossible to say how many of these workers voted for Trump, and whether they would have voted differently if they had already gained overtime protection that Trump was threatening to take away, but for a President concerned about his legacy, it is a reminder of the perils of slow-walking a regulatory reform that has the potential to improve the lives of millions of workers.

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