July 22, 2019
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AWB and employers speak up at public hearings against new 'super minimum wage' overtime proposal

Nonprofit leaders and salaried employees joined AWB and small business to tell officials that a dramatic increase to the salary threshold will cause unintended consequences.

The proposal by the state Department of Labor & Industries would set the new exempt overtime threshold at $79,872 by the time it's fully implemented in 2026. That new "super minimum wage" is more than three times the current threshold and more than twice the amount that the Federal Department of Labor has proposed as the new standard. The new threshold would be permanently set at 2.5 times the minimum wage.

L&I is holding a series of hearings across the state to take public comment on the proposal.

Rose Gundersen, co-founder and board director of Washington Trafficking Prevention, a nonprofit aimed at stopping sex trafficking, spoke in opposition to a major proposed increase to the state's exempt overtime threshold. Gundersen said that while she supports an increase to the exempt overtime threshold, she said the scope of the state's current proposal would hit nonprofits like hers too hard.

That's an issue shared by many nonprofits in Washington, according to the Journal of Business. Nonprofits such as the YMCA of the Inland Northwest and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Spokane County say their costs will increase and their ability to provide services will be negatively affected by the proposed rule.

Kirby Johnson, an instructional designer at SEL, testified last week about being a salaried worker who was switched to hourly status to comply with similar (but lower) exempt overtime limits set during the Obama administration. With hard work, Johnson eventually was able to earn a promotion and move back into a salaried position. "This was the best thing that could have happened in my life," Johnson said, noting the flexibility that a salaried position gives to spend time with children.

"I stand before you today because once again my career is being questioned as to whether or not it is a professional role. Often my work happens outside of the traditional working hours. Being a salaried professional gives me the autonomy to manage my career successfully," Johnson said. "To be transitioned back to an hourly rate tells me and other professionals like me that our careers are less important, that they are less professional, and it feels as if our autonomy is being questioned."

That essentially converts the salary threshold to a new "super minimum wage," said Bob Battles, AWB government affairs director for workplace law.

"The proposal to make the salary threshold a 'super minimum wage' is unlawful, not supported by the rule-making record, incapable of being assessed through a valid cost-benefit analysis, and poor public policy," Battles said in a new AWB issue brief on the L&I proposal.

Upcoming public hearings will be held:

  • Monday, Aug. 5, in Ellensburg
  • Tuesday, Aug. 6, in Kennewick
  • Wednesday, Aug. 7, in Spokane
  • Thursday, Aug. 15, in Vancouver

Details on the hearing location and times are at the L&I website.

Contact Battles to learn more about this important issue.

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Career-connected Learning

Steer our students to the many paths for productive lives

By State Sen. Lisa Wellman and State Rep. Vandana Slatter

We know that today's jobs require education beyond high school. But our graduation rate is still under 80 percent, and only 40 percent of our high school students earn a credential or degree after high school by the time they are 26 years old.

Meanwhile, businesses can't find workers with the skills they need. This means that despite the state's strong economic growth, thousands of Washington students are being left behind every single year.

The situation is serious and getting more urgent. In the next few years, Washington employers are anticipating 740,000 job openings with jobs that require technical certification, apprenticeship or college degrees. We need to get students ready...

Career Connect Washington provides a fundamental new framework for connecting students to high demand, high potential jobs, and higher education, job training and actual employment. Through a regional approach of supporting localized networks focused on the needs of our diverse state, each area of our state will be able to help students learn about, explore and prepare for their careers...

Read the full op-ed in The Seattle Times