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Obama Touts New Federal Overtime Pay Rule In Wisconsin


This morning's unemployment report looked better than it actually was. Job creation was decent. U.S. employers added 223,000 jobs last month, but that's down from the previous month. And while the unemployment rate dropped to 5.3 percent, that was only because fewer people were looking for work. President Obama told an audience in Wisconsin this afternoon that the economy still has plenty of room for improvement. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama can still boast about a record streak of job growth with nearly 13 million jobs added over the last five years. But average wages remained flat in June, and over the last year, wages have barely outpaced inflation. Obama acknowledges there's a lot of work left to do.


BARACK OBAMA: We've got to make sure that this economy works for everybody who's willing to work, everybody who's willing to do their fair share.

HORSLEY: Part of the president's strategy is a new rule from the Labor Department designed to make more than 5 million additional workers eligible for overtime pay.


OBAMA: This is an issue of basic fairness. If you work longer and you work harder, you should get paid for it.

HORSLEY: Obama complained some employers have been taking advantage of low-paid workers by giving them a manager's title so they don't qualify for overtime pay. White House economic adviser Betsey Stevenson says over the last five years, some workers have been clocking more and more overtime, and the trend is accelerating.

BETSEY STEVENSON: There are some people in salaried positions who are working, you know, 50, 60, even 70 hours a week. They're not getting extra pay for the extra hours, and they're working alongside hourly employees, some of whom are saying, I'm not getting enough hours.

HORSLEY: The proposed rule is designed to boost the bargaining power of workers in both camps, and it's no accident the president chose to promote the measure in Wisconsin where Governor Scott Walker and his Republican colleagues in the legislature have worked to reduce the bargaining power of organized labor. Obama argues that's misguided.


OBAMA: Folks forget sometimes. Unions are what helped bring about the 40-hour workweek...


OBAMA: ...Helped bring about the idea of the weekend. And I know that's a popular concept.

HORSLEY: Walker, who is expected to join the crowded field of Republican presidential hopefuls this month, met the president at the airport this afternoon for what appeared to be a friendly conversation. The governor had harsh words for the president's overtime rule, though. Walker said, in a statement, the rule would ultimately lead to lower base pay for employees and reduced workplace flexibility. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.