The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 16, 2016

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Labor Dept. appeals OT eligibility ruling

WASHINGTON (PAI)—Fighting to keep one of the Obama administration’s top pro-worker initiatives alive, the Labor Department announced on Dec. 1 that it would appeal a rural Texas federal judge’s ban on DOL’s expansion of worker eligibility for overtime pay.

But DOL’s appeal, to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans – an appellate panel stacked, like the Texas federal courts, with GOP-named right wing judges – faces a race against the clock.

Unless that appeals court hears the case before the Republican Trump administration takes office, that administration’s Labor Department may decide to drop it.

Doing so would strip between 4.2 million and 12.5 million workers nationwide of eligibility for a raise, via overtime pay, they otherwise would have been in line for. The rule had been scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1. The judge’s ban stalled the rule.

DOL’s overtime pay rule more than doubled the salary above which a worker was ineligible for overtime, from the Bush-era $23,665 to $47,476.

More importantly, DOL redefined the group of exempt “executive, administrative and professional” (EAP) workers who couldn’t get overtime, regardless of their pay level. Bush had expanded it so much that even newspaper editorial assistants couldn’t get overtime pay.

Accepting the arguments of business lobbies, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant said, in so many words, that DOL overstepped its authority.

The AFL-CIO has had no comment on Mazzant’s Nov. 22 ruling or the appeal. But Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry said after the ruling that “working families have had the rug pulled out from under them right as we go into the holiday season.” She noted that dumping the expanded overtime pay rule would particularly hurt young workers, working women and minorities.”

U.S. jobless rate at nine-year low

WASHINGTON (PAI)—The U.S. unemployment rate dropped 0.3 percent in November to 4.6 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. It was the lowest jobless rate since a year before the Great Recession began. Businesses claimed to create a net of 156,000 jobs, while governments added 22,000 jobs. Most were in local governments, not including schools. Construction firms claimed to add 19,000 jobs in November,

Some 7.4 million people were jobless in November, down 387,000 from the month before. That’s the lowest figure since November 2007, when 7.24 million were out of work. The jobless rate that month was 4.7 percent. But a top analyst said not all was good news.

“The economy is still recovering” because “wage growth is still below target,” explained Economic Policy Institute analyst Elise Gould.

BLS said average hourly earnings for all workers actually shrank by three cents in November, though they rose by two cents for private-sector non-supervisory workers.

Construction firms claimed to add 19,000 jobs in November, at specialty trade contractors (+15,500) and housing contractors (+5,200). Civil and heavy engineering dropped. That left 6.704 million construction workers on the job and 517,000 jobless (5.7 percent).