Originally published in Skewed News.

overtimeColorA new rule being proposed by an Obama Administration executive order will update salary regulations frozen since 1975. 5 million salaried workers who’ve been bullied and coerced to provide countless hours of overtime labor without compensation are now (well, next year) supposed to actually get paid for work they do that exceeds 40 hours a week.

Currently, workers who are considered managers or supervisors have to make less than $23,660 to qualify for overtime pay—less than the official poverty level for a family of four. Many employers have taken advantage of this by giving fake “Manager” titles to workers to force them to work extra hours for free. The new rule would adjust that threshold to $50,440, basically restoring it to what it was in 1975 in real purchasing power. The new threshold will not be tied to inflation though, so we’re back at square one, and the price of food is still going to rise faster than our paychecks.

Getting paid for our work: what a concept! The fact that this is portrayed by some as a great victory for labor is pathetic. (And let’s not even mention those who argue that we shouldn’t even get this much). Getting paid for our work should be an obvious, expected base line.

It is not a gift. We earn it every day. So let’s not embarrass ourselves by being grateful to our oppressors and exploiters.

That said, it’s about fucking time. Being forced to work without pay is slavery—and unpaid overtime doesn’t even include meals and shelter. How this was even allowed in the first place is beyond comprehension. The only reason they got away with it for so long is due to our own organizational weakness—in a different time or place, instead of facing our bosses as powerless individuals, we’d have poured into the streets a million strong and refused to work until our demands were met. But alas, today we’re in the position of having to wait passively for an election year when the political representatives of our bosses might decide to throw us a little crumb.

OK, we got a crumb. Good—we need it, badly! Maybe some of us can catch up on our rent or even afford to get to the dentist. But let’s not be lulled into thinking we can relax. Whenever workers gain anything, greedy capitalist motherfuckers find some way to take it away again.

Just you wait. They’ll lower our base pay so we’re still working 60 hours for the same total paycheck. They’ll cut our hours so no one gets overtime in the first place. They already cut the hours for many of us to avoid paying into our healthcare—soon many formerly salaried “managers of the mop” will likely be forced to join the ranks of workers with two or three part-time jobs.

Why even settle for a crumb? What about all the wages they stole through unpaid overtime up to now? They should RETURN ALL OF IT. How much: a year’s worth? Five years? Fifty? The amount will be determined by our collective strength, because they’ll never voluntarily return even a penny.

We gain nothing unless we fight for it. If we’re going to be strong enough to win our rights, then we need to organize. If establishment unions hold us back or sell us out—which happens all too often—then we need to organize on our own, into a new labor movement that workers control. The capitalists returned a crumb of what they owe us. Let’s band together and prevent them from taking it away again. Then we can start thinking about the rest of the cake.