Americans Overwhelmingly Favor Increasing the Overtime Threshold

Are you ready for an astounding number? Good because here it comes: a new Gallup poll found that 67 percent of all Americans support expanding the overtime rule. Possibly even more astounding? Only 14 percent disapprove of expanding overtime. These are powerful numbers, because they indicate that America knows the overtime threshold has been stagnant for decades, and that the middle class is ready for a raise. The conservative politicians who are fighting overtime are arguing with their own constituents.

But what about secondary education? One of the loudest protesters of the overtime argument has been America’s universities. They argue that if they’re forced to pay their employees overtime for the hours they work over a full 40-hour workweek, they’ll have to raise tuition. Are these predictions correct?

Not according to a new snapshot from the Economic Policy Institute:

The majority of workers at universities, including faculty, graduate student assistants, and adjuncts, are exempt from the overtime rules. Claims that paying more overtime will cause tuition to rise strains credulity because, as the figure [above] shows, as overtime protections eroded over the last 40 years and removed the guarantee of overtime pay from millions of salaried employees, tuition soared. Tuition has risen dramatically without any contribution from overtime regulation.

In fact, tuition has gone up nearly 300 percent in that time. The EPI also cites several other pertinent points, including the fact that the National Institutes of Health, which offers grants to postdoc workers, has pledged to increase its grants to pay for the overtime rule.

Adjusting to change is rarely fun, and it’s true that employers will have to adjust to the overtime rule. But when colleges hold tuition increases over the heads of Americans, knowing full well that skyrocketing tuitions are already a concern for everyone, that feels more like a threat than anything else. And if it is a threat, it’s one that has failed to move nearly 70 percent of Americans. It’s time for colleges to get with the program, and to start figuring out how to incorporate overtime into their pay structure.

Comments

comments

Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.