(MintPress) – House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) proposed abolishing overtime pay for hourly employees, a federally-protected law established to provide fair compensation for work that goes beyond the standard 40-hour work week. The announcement was made during a speech earlier this month at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
Cantor’s announcement calls for an end to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The law mandates that hourly workers get paid “time and a half” for overtime work.
If introduced as legislation, Cantor’s proposal will likely be met with staunch opposition from House Democrats and from President Barack Obama who proposed increasing the minimum wage during his State of the Union address earlier this month.
President Obama expressed his support for increasing the minimum wage from a paltry $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour. If passed, the increase would help millions of low wage, hourly workers but would fail to keep up with cost of living increases and inflation.
According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, a $9 minimum hourly wage would still leave 40 percent of workers below the average minimum wage in 1968 based upon the purchasing power of the dollar. If the minimum wage had been increased to keep up with the rise in the cost of living and productivity growth, the minimum wage would be $16.50 in 2013 according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
According to a poll conducted by USA Today and the Pew Research Center, 71 percent of Americans support President Obama’s plan to increase the minimum wage.
Low wages have exacerbated housing problems nationwide because minimum wage earners working 40 hours per week cannot afford a fair market priced two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S. According to the National Employment Law Project, minimum wage earners have to work 60-70 hours per week in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
Republican opposition to increases in the minimum wage stems from the erroneous assumption that such measures will stymie economic growth.
“The Republican opposition has been pretty significant as has the business community’s opposition. For years they have played this myth that increasing the minimum wage will lead to layoffs and higher unemployment,” said David Schultz, a nationally recognized expert in government, nonprofit, and business ethics in a statement to Mint Press News.
This point is confirmed by other studies that underscore the fact that raising the minimum wage and protecting overtime pay are actually positive for businesses and economic growth.
“In fact, raising the minimum wage is good for business and the overall economy. Why? Because when poor workers have more money to spend, they spend it, almost entirely in the local community, on basic necessities like housing, food, clothing and transportation, writes Peter Dreier and Donald Cohen in a recent article.
Dreier, a Professor of Politics, and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College partnered with Cohen, a director of a nonprofit research network called the Cry Wolf Project, to write in support of a minimum wage increase. The two contend that based on data from the Economic Policy Institute, a minimum wage hike to $9 would pump $21 billion into the economy.
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