Wages and Salaries and Overtime, Oh My!

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According to Social Security Administration data, in 2014, the average American individual income was $44,600. Doesn’t sound awful right? Think again. That same data shows 67% of Americans were below that threshold with the median income at $28,850. So this essentially tells us what we already know. The top percentile are well above the national average boosting the number by almost $20,000 more than what the majority Americans actually make.

In 2014, President Obama relying on the Secretary of Labor, asked the salary and overtime rules be updated. On May 18th, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) put forth their final plan which highly favored the working American. It limited or dissolved unpaid overtime, and raised the threshold by almost double. Here is an excerpt from the DOL website breaking down the changes:

The final rule will:

  • Raise the salary threshold indicating eligibility from $455/week to $913 ($47,476 per year), ensuring protections to 4.2 million workers.
  • Automatically update the salary threshold every three years, based on wage growth over time, increasing predictability.
  • Strengthen overtime protections for salaried workers already entitled to overtime.
  • Provide greater clarity for workers and employers.

The final rule will become effective on December 1, 2016, giving employers more than six months to prepare. The final rule does not make any changes to the duties test for executive, administrative and professional employees.     

To most salaried Americans, this was highly irregular as it was of extreme benefit to so many people, and a huge step towards bringing back the middle class. To put into perspective, the 2014 Gallup poll showed that US salaried workers put in an average of 49 hours per week. That is 9 unpaid hours every week. In dollars, a person making $20/hour would earn and additional $270 in overtime pay (time and a half) for those 9 hours. Over the course of one year, that employee would have earned $14,040 more in overtime pay on top of their salary.

As months went by, thousands of companies across the US began the tedious task of redoing pay structures, increasing wages for positions, hiring new employees to prevent the need for overtime, and updating all internal HR policies concerning salaried employees. Some companies implemented their changes as soon as they were complete. For example, Walmart raised the starting salary of a manager by $3,500 to stay above the new minimum.

As the end of November neared, more and more workers began wondering what changes they would incur. At the very least, they would not be permitted to work over 40 hours a week, giving them a small respite from an otherwise longer week. But many people were up for either a substantial raise, or overtime pay.

Big businesses were not happy with these changes and a total of 21 states appealed. Then on November 22nd, 2016, a federal judge in Texas made a shocking ruling. The Department of Labor does not have the authority to make changes on behalf of the United States government, they were not given the authority to adjust the annual wage by Congress, and the changes were to come to an immediate hault. The fallout of this decision has been detrimental for many people.

Over 4 million Americans would not be getting the benefits they were so greatly looking forward to and deserved. Companies wasted extensive time and resources working out changes for absolutely no reason. It seemed the only parties with cause to celebrate were the head of these companies themselves, who would not have to put out the extra money for their employees. The biggest shock though, was that of the DOL. A direct quote from their website states:

“The Department strongly disagrees with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work for millions of hardworking Americans.  The Department’s Overtime Final Rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rule-making process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule.  We are currently considering all of our legal options.”

So the question now becomes, how necessary is this change? After some research, I have found that the salary requirements have only been updated 7 times since 1938, the last update being in 2004. So basically inflation and cost of living increases have been happening for 12 years with no change to salary requirements. Yes, this change is necessary. And the provision stating it be updated every 3 years is also necessary. Not only do millions of Americans share this opinion, but clearly the DOL is on our side. Appeals are sure to follow. They may be quickly overturned, or this may end up a decision for the Supreme Court.

One must also consider what will happen when our new president takes office. President elect Donald Trump has expressed concerns but has not spoken out against it. He does feel it could be damaging to profits and productivity and has said he would consider exempting small businesses. To me that’s neither here nor there as we are talking about major corporations who are now throwing threats of potential layoffs, decreases in major productivity, and less room for advancement. It is a shame these scare tactics are being used to exploit the average worker. In reality, layoffs should not be substantial since there have been months to plan for this change. The only decrease in productivity will occur due to workers not putting in as much overtime because the big businesses don’t want to fairly compensate, so it is really an unfair point, and lastly, a lack of room for advancement? It is a sad state we live in if ones eligibility for promotion is directly affected by how many free hours they give to the company. What happened to intelligence and competency?

As it stands, the possibility of overturning the ruling seems grim, but it is not completely lost. We need to let our Congressman know what we want. They are supposed to be our voice. If they don’t hear us, we need to make more noise. No one is going to put up a fight for the little guy, so all of us little guys need to start fighting for ourselves. Sure, the little guy is a bit unorthodox this time. He’s not chipping away in a coal mine, or pouring sweat in a steel mill. This time he’said sitting in a small cubicle with harsh florescent lighting, staring at a computer for hours  on end. Being screamed at on the phone for things they can’t help, and fighting to help keep their part of the business functional. A desk job may sounds cushy, but I can tell you from experience, it is mentally taxing. Fair employment practices should be a given across the board. Salaried employees should not be exempt from benefits. It seems as thought a salaried agreement can basically have a clause that says you can be over-worked and there is nothing you can do about it. We have Unions protecting their workers, and many laws protecting those who work hourly. This exploitation is bordering on discrimination. ALL workers should have rights. Let’s not make our salaried workers the forgotten ones.

Election Results

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It appears the impossible has happened. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, or for those of us who didn’t sleep, late Tuesday night Hillary Clinton conceded via phone and then officially Wednesday morning, and Donald Trump is our new president. This is a shocking result and has sparked many emotions. Happy, sad, anxious, angry, elated, disappointed, hopeful, cynical. These are just a few emotions I have seen in my fellow citizens.

I write this post very carefully as I am trying to approach a very sensitive subject from every aspect, however for the purpose of this blog I will also vocalize my opinions.

Discounting those who have become numb to it, or do not care, there are 4 types of people in this country right now. I’d like to look at them in detail and weight the pros and cons of each.

Type 1: Trump Supporters, Humble Winners.

These are the people who support Trump and do so with grace. They are not waving a win in the oppositions face. They are hopefuls looking towards a better future. They have faith that this man will bring about positive change.

Type 2: Hillary Supporters, Humble Losers.

These people are saddened a candidate they truly believed in with everything they have has lost. They are disappointed that their hope for our future has been shattered. Some are exercising their right to peacefully protest in the name of what they believe. This is their constitutional right and I cannot fault anyone for that. Good for all of you for believing in your cause and supporting it in the most constutional way possible. It is a great country we live in that we have the right to do these things. In other coutries, people are shot for the same actions. People of this type have also vocalized they will follow the advice the former secretary gave in her speech, which is to give Trump a chance and the benefit of the doubt.

These descriptions are brief because I have the utmost respect for both of these types of people. This is how it should be. Now let’s take a look at the final 2 types.

Type 3: Trump Supporters, Sore Winners.

These people also fiercely support Donald Trump, but to a fault. The right to choose your presidential candidate is a very precious right in this country and the foundation of our election process. Shame on anyone who condemns another for their personal choice. Be proud of the win. Be grateful, but don’t be angry and arrogant and hateful. This behavior is frankly uncalled for. Show some dignity and stop attacking others for their choices and opinions. There is no need for gloating. It is not doing any good for anyone.

Type 4: Hillary Supporters, Sore Losers.

Again, this hate war going on between supporters is an embarrassment to our country. Please show some class in your loss. Rioting, violence and calls for blood and assassination are not peaceful protests. Insulting those who don’t share your beliefs just makes you a hypocrite. You are becoming the very thing you were against. If you want to exercise your constitutional rights, go join type 2 and do it the right way. But also, dont quote the first amendment as your right but in the next breath, talk about taking away the second amendment. You can’t have it both ways. There is no entitlement. You cannot throw a temper tantrum because you lost and expect change. You don’t get a participation trophy in the game of life.

There is so much more to government than the presidential election. Surprise! Elections happen every 2 years. Know your local and state politics too. Get involved. Do it on every level you can. Get educated on the political system. Don’t like the electoral college? Work towards changing it to make the popular vote count, go do it! Don’t sit in your computer chair whining and attacking others, take action! This is but one example and only because it’s relevant to the subject matter, but this principle applies to so much more. Don’t want the change, be the change. But do so it in the most positive and constitutional way possible. If you can’t take action, then stop complaining.

I think this divide is destroying our country. It is not our leaders, but our citizens displaying so much hate and violence against one another that is tearing America down. So I say, give Donald Trump a chance before condemning him. He may surprise us all and I hold on tightly to that hope. He is in a way, the anti politician. He may help restore a government ran by the power of the people, not the elite.

I think I’ve made my opinions clear on which people are right and which are wrong. We are all supposed to be equals. If we continue to to label black and white, Catholic, or Muslim, male or female, straight or gay, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, or any other hot button stereotype you can think of, we will never reach equality. You are a person. You are human. That is all. In this country, none of the other labels matter. You still have the same opportunities as everyone else, you just have to be willing to work for it. You don’t get to cry discrimination, then use that same label for special privillages.

To summarize, I am of the mindset that in this country, your life is what you make it. You have the freedom and opportunity to do or be what you want, but where did the notion that it should all be handed to us come from? No one is exempt from working for what they want. No one is born special. You have to earn it. You want change? Make it. But also learn acceptance. Sometimes things will go your way, other times they will not. This is life. To types 1 and 2, good on you. You have my full support and respect. To types 3 and 4, you need to reevaluate. You are an insult to the electoral process. Remember it’s not just the vote. It is also the peaceful transfer of power. All I’m saying is give it a chance before you bring out the tar and feathers, and for crying out loud, stop tearing each other down for simply exercising our right to choose. 

 

Guy Fawkes Day

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Remember remember the 5th of November…

Most Americans associate this phrase with the popular movie V for Vendetta, but that movie was inspired by true events that have a lasting impact on history even today.

To understand one must first take a look at the history of the British monarchy, specifically the Tudor dynasty. Henry VIII introduced a very harsh religious reform during his reign, demanding the Catholicism was essentially treason. It resulted in many martyrs and violence. Reasoning will come soon.

The reign of Mary Tudor who is also known as Bloody Mary was short, but she was a fierce Catholic who resented her father’s choices and in turn had many Protestants killed.

Next on the throne was Queen Elizabeth I. She too began a mission against Catholicism. Many priests and catholics died at her hand, and Catholics weren’t allowed legal marriage.

In 1603 with the passing of Queen Elizabeth, her successor was King James. The Catholic community rejoiced as they believed he would be more tolerant and allow them to practice religion as they believed. This was not the case. King James even made a decree stating all priests should leave England and declared Catholicism a superstition. Fines were doled out to those who would not attend Protestant serives. This was the final push the people needed.

Enter 13 men and the Gunpowder Plot. It is tradition that the reigning monarch only enters Parliament once a year to “open Parliament” the plan was to blow up the parliament building on that night. November 5th 1605.

Guy Fawkes was knowledgeable on explosives. His part was to hide in the basement of Parliament watching the explosives, ignite it and escape as the building exploded with all the powers of the country inside.

The plan failed and Fawkes was caught before a match could be struck. He was taken to the Tower of London where he was tourtured and questioned for 2 days. He was sentenced to death for high treason.

Fawkes was to be hanged and quartered, however he fell from the structure and broke his neck before they could pull him down thus avoiding a very painful death.

When the Gunpowder Plot was stopped, King James ordered all citizens should light bonfires in celebration of their failure. This tradition still continues today along with impressive fireworks displays.

I think the real question here is whether Guy Fawkes is a traitor or a hero? In today’s world, some would call him a terrorist, others, an anarchist. I think in order to truly understand one has to look at the motivation behind the whole story, which is why we need to look so hard at the Tudor dynasty. Henry VIII’s first wife was Catherine of Aragon. Their daughter Mary. England was a Catholic nation. Henry met Anne Boelyn and petitioned the Pope for divorce. He was denied. As a result he cast off Catherine, declared religious reform and married Anne anyways. Their daughter Elizabeth. England was now a Protestant nation. There are, of course, many other details behind this, but it really boils down to a man in power who believed he was exempt from being told what to do, and the people he ruled over should heel at his word. Knowing their children it is easy to see the religious motivations behind each of their reigns.

Over all of these years, you see a population that continuously bent to the will of their leaders whims. Changed their beliefs, and did as they were told or suffered the consequesces.

Guy Fawkes was a man who saw how unjust this was. He helped to fight so everyone had the right to their own beliefs. He did not think anyone could tell him what he was allowed to believe in. He fought back. He died for what he believed was right. No government should have the right to control their people so harshly.

Imagine for a moment what would have happened if they succeeded? We would live in a completely different world, quite possibly a world where those in power sought to gain the approval of their people and feared their people. Isn’t that what government should be?

Take away the religious undertones. Look at our own government. This isn’t just about religion, it’s about freedom. How can we allow ourselves to live in a world where the capture of Guy Fawkes is still celebrated. We have become so complacent that we allow our governments to do as they please and we hardly question it, let alone fight it. I am not suggesting an act of war, but what I am suggesting is to understand the purpose of government. We are not meant to be ruled over with an iron fist. This is our government. We are supposed to control it, not sit back and let them take our rights away. Go out an get educated on your countries politics. Stand up for what you believe in.

Today, celebrate Guy Fawkes for the hero he was, don’t celebrate the execution of someone who refused to bow to the systems every command. Let his actions motivate you to become passionate about your own freedoms. Remember the 5th of November as an extreme attempt at telling those in power they are not always right. Remember the 5th of November as a cry for liberty and justice, and remember Guy Fawkes as a brave man who gave his life to that belief.

 

Super Tuesday 3 Republican Style

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With all the hype surrounding this year’s election, I’m sure everyone is aware of yesterday’s primaries. This was a very big day for the Republicans as it could have brought us one step closer to a brokered convention, but alas, Trump came out on top in four out of the five states voting. Let’s take a deeper look into this.

The major highlights yesterday morning surrounded Ohio and Florida, both winner take all states. With Florida’s victor gaining 99 delegates, and Ohio’s gaining 66, these were crucial states for both Trump supporters and those looking to ease him out of the race. With Florida being Marco Rubio’s home state, and Ohio being John Kasich’s home state, both candidates campaigned hard alongside Trump to gain an edge. Marco Rubio vowed Tuesday morning to his supporters that regardless of what the Florida results were, he would be hard at work campaigning in Utah throughout the coming week. On the other hand, Kasich, who has been at the bottom of all the primaries thus far, was ready to throw in the towel if Ohio did not go his way. So lets take a look at the winners:

Florida: Trump – 99 Delegates

Illinois: Trump – 51 Delegates

Missouri: Trump – 25 Delegates

North Carolina: Trump – 29 Delegates

Ohio – Kasich – 66 Delegates

So what does all of this mean? The first surprise was Kasich pulling off the Ohio win. His campaign was confident, but so was Mr. Trump’s and honestly I think a large amount of people expected Trump to put the last nail in Kasich’s coffin, but unexpectedly he took the win and I’m sure he and his team will do all they can to build off that momentum. They say Ohio is a big key to the oval office, and chances are Kasich won’t let us forget that.

The next surprise, which honestly wasn’t a surprise at all, is that around 9pm EST after the Florida results had been announced, despite the persistence he showed about staying in the race, “Little Marco” (Hey, I didn’t say it first, but it is kind of funny) gave his concession speech and officially dropped out of the race. I don’t think any of his supporters are surprised. The real question Rubio supporters now have, is who will the Senator endorse? I see two options here because we all know it won’t be Trump. He can either endorse Ted Cruz and hope that through a combined effort they can knock Trump out of the lead, or he can throw his support to John Kasich. Both Rubio and Kasich have been at the bottom of the list for almost all of the primaries, so he may take the strategy that combining forces could bring Kasich closer to the rest of the pack.

No matter what happens next, The Republican primaries are sure to be exciting right to the end. We have gone a step further away from a brokered convention, but the subject of a contested convention is certainly not off the table. This could be bad news for the Republicans as it will definitely be in the Democrats favor come November. If it is, as the Republicans have stated over and over again, so important that a Republican get into office, having two candidates on their ticket in November will have them at a severe disadvantage. The real question is, If Trump does get the final nod, can the Republicans put aside their differences and join forces for the sake of the party? Or will they take the risk and set their hopes on Senator Cruz? More to come as the debates and primaries continue…

CPAC 2016

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Since this was my fist year attending CPAC as a journalist, I find I will need some time to do this post justice, so please visit again soon for a comprehensive account of the weekend!