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Biden To Announce New Overtime Pay Rules In Ohio

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Vice President Biden campaigned today in the battleground state of Ohio. He was promoting a new Obama administration rule that will make millions of additional Americans eligible for overtime pay. At a time when wage growth has been slow, the new rule is one of the government's most potent tools to boost workers' income. But NPR's Scott Horsley reports it's going to be challenged by some employers.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Biden dropped into the headquarters of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams - a Columbus, Ohio, company that's made a name for itself with its generous compensation of employees. The vice president is a big fan of ice cream and also what he calls Jeni's commitment to fairness.

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JOE BIDEN: There used to be a basic bargain in the country. If the outfit you worked for increased its productivity, increased its profits, you got to share in the benefits. You got to be a part of it.

HORSLEY: The administration says it's trying to restore part of that bargain with its new overtime rule, which will make more than 4 million Americans eligible for time-and-a-half pay when they work more than 40 hours a week.

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BIDEN: The step we're taking today is about something my dad used to always say. He'd say, Joey, a job 's about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about your dignity. And you're deprived your dignity, in my view, when you know you're working much, much harder and much, much longer than you're getting compensated for.

HORSLEY: The new rule is designed to help workers like Joseph Guiragossian, a former retail manager from Chicago, who recalls working up to 70 hours a week during the holiday season, with up to 30 of those hours unpaid.

JOSEPH GUIRAGOSSIAN: The way it was posed to me is that I'm a manager, and I should be salaried, and this is my job.

HORSLEY: Guiragossian was making just over $30,000 a year. His white-collar manager's title made him ineligible for overtime pay.

GUIRAGOSSIAN: You feel really important. You're like, I'm a manager. I'm almost living the American dream, in some sense, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty and you really - you really start realizing that it really wasn't much to be a salaried person. It ended up doing me worse.

HORSLEY: Under the new rule, anyone making up to around $47,000 a year will have to be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. Labor Secretary Tom Perez says the rule's intended to restore some bargaining power to workers by adding teeth to a New-Deal-era labor law.

TOM PEREZ: When I was a kid, you know, when my friends' parents were a manager, they were in the middle class. And they weren't in the middle class by chance. They were in the middle class by design because the Fair Labor Standards Act was designed to say that, if you work more than a 40 hour week and you have these additional responsibilities, you should be in the middle class.

HORSLEY: The rule faces opposition from some employers who say it goes too far. David French of the National Retail Federation is asking Congress to step in and block the measure.

DAVID FRENCH: Employees are going to lose flexibility. In some cases, they may even lose hours. They may be eligible for overtime pay, but it doesn't necessarily mean they're going to be making overtime pay.

HORSLEY: Perez agrees. Employers have a variety of ways to comply with the new rule. They can pay overtime, they can boost employees' base salary so it's above the new threshold or they can limit time spent working to 40 hours a week while hiring new workers or giving part-timers extra hours to fill the gap.

PEREZ: People are going to get at least one of three benefits. They're either going to get more money, they're either going to get more time with their family, or everybody is going to get clarity.

HORSLEY: The new rule is set to take effect December 1. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Columbus, Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.