AUGUSTA – A bill is being presented before the Maine Legislature that would boost middle-class wages by $8.8 million and protect salaried workers.
“The value of overtime has really been eroded over time and we believe it should be restored to where it has been historically,” said Garrett Martin, executive director of Maine Center for Economic Policy.
“Which is basically at a level that would support a family,” he said.
Martin said nearly all hourly workers are already guaranteed overtime.
The threshold for this protection is around $36,000. If you make less than that you qualify. If you make more than that you don’t.
Martin said the bill would increase the overtime threshold for workers who make less than $55,000.
“I think it’s a pretty basic principal that if you work hard you should get paid for that work,” said Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono.
Officials with the Maine Center for Economic Policy said this could benefit close to 28,000 workers in Maine.
Republicans, however, said in the long run it could hurt them.
“The economy is good right now. We may not see immediate affects of the change in the law but in the long run when the economy does have it’s inevitable downturn I think we’d really see the detrimental affects of a law like this,” said Rep. Richard Bradstreet, R-Vassalboro.
Rep. Joshua Morris said with this bill he believes employee moral would go down. His concern is workers won’t be able to climb the career ladder forcing them out of Maine for better job opportunities.
“From what we saw in the public hearing and what we’ve heard it’s not something coming from the workers that would be affected,” Morris said. “It’s coming from special interest groups.”
If this law was to be passed, the bar would increase over a three-year span.