President Obama touted his efforts to boost overtime pay for millions of workers who are "working harder than ever just to keep up,” he said.
In Saturday's weekly address, the president said steps he took earlier this week to modernize overtime rules were to make sure the nation’s economic comeback worked for more than just the “fortunate few.”
“In many ways, the trends that have battered the middle class for decades have grown even starker,” he continued. “While those at the top are doing better than ever, average wages have barely budged."
The regulations being changed govern which types of employees qualify for the “white collar” exemption that allows employers to avoid paying overtime at a time-and-a-half rate.
Obama argued what was once meant as a rule to prevent overtime for highly paid employees, now affected workers making as little as $23,660 a year.
“In some cases, this rule makes it possible for workers earning a salary to actually be paid less than the minimum wage,” he said. “And it means that business owners who treat their employees fairly can be undercut by competitors who don’t. That’s not right.”
White House officials say the administration will look to narrow the classification of which jobs qualify for that exemption, so that fast food and retail managers, for example, would no longer be prevented from earning the additional wages.
The president said his push was just the latest in his “year of action,” where he would take steps with or without Congress to boost the economy for more Americans.
“Wherever and whenever I can make sure that our economy rewards hard work and responsibility, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.
As Democrats seek to push an inclusive economic message in the midterm election year, Obama has cited income inequality as a growing problem. He's called for raising the federal minimum wage, and moved unilaterally to hike pay to his proposed $10.10 hourly wage for workers on federal contracts.