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The President's Weekly Address

May 21, 2016

Hi, everybody. Last summer, I got a letter from a woman named Elizabeth Paredes from Tucson, Arizona. Elizabeth is the mom of a 3-year-old boy and an assistant manager at a sandwich shop. She earns about $2,000 a month, and she routinely works some 50 hours a week, sometimes even more. But because of outdated overtime regulations, she doesn't have to be paid a dime of overtime. She wrote: "It's not easy work and requires a lot of time away from my son… at times, I find [it's] not worth it."

Things like the 40-hour workweek and overtime are two of the most basic pillars of a middle class life. But for all the changes we've seen in our economy, our overtime rules have only been updated once since the 1970s—just once. In fact, 40 years ago, more than 60 percent of workers were eligible for overtime based on their salaries. But today, that number is down to 7 percent. Only 7 percent of full-time salaried workers are eligible for overtime based on their income.

That's why this week, my administration took a step to help more workers get the overtime pay they've earned. The Department of Labor finalized a rule to extend overtime protections to 4.2 million more Americans. It's a move that will boost wages for working Americans by $12 billion over the next 10 years. We're more than doubling the overtime salary threshold. And what that means is, most salaried workers who earn less than about $47,500 a year will qualify for overtime. Or their employers can choose to give them a raise so that they earn more than $47,500. Or if employers don't want to raise wages, they can let them go home after 40 hours and see their families or train for new jobs. Any way you slice it, it's a win for working families. And we're making sure that every 3 years, there will be an automatic update to this threshold so that working families won't fall through the cracks for decades at a time ever again.

This is the single biggest step I can take through executive action to raise wages for the American people. It means that millions of hard-working Americans like Elizabeth will either get paid for working more than 40 hours, or they'll get more time with their families. Either way, they win, the middle class wins, and America wins.

We still have more work to do to make sure this economy works for everybody, not just those at the top. That's why I'll never stop fighting for as long as I hold this office to restore the sense that in America, hard work should be rewarded with the chance to get ahead.

Thanks, everybody. And have a great weekend.

NOTE: The address was recorded at approximately 3:20 p.m. on May 19 in the Roosevelt Room at the White House for broadcast on May 21. The transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on May 20, but was embargoed for release until 6 a.m. on May 21. The Office of the Press Secretary also released a Spanish language transcript of this address.

Barack Obama, The President's Weekly Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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