Spokane Valley is Midsommar.
Spokane Valley is Midsommar. Screengrab from YouTube

As I mentioned back in June, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has proposed an update to the state's overtime laws that will increase the number of salaried workers who are eligible for overtime. The change will take effect in July of next year, and by 2026 employers will have to pay overtime to all salaried employees making less than ~$80,000 if those employees work over 40 hours in a week. Right now, employers only have to pay overtime to salaried employees making less than $24,000.

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As part of the process, the department has been holding town hall presentations around the state. So far, supporters of the new rule have come to tell stories about the benefits of actually being paid for the extra work they do, while opponents have stood up to say crazy shit like this:

In early August L&I stopped by the CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley to give their slide show presentation on the rule change.

Liberty Lake business owner Natalie Gauvin, who is featured in the video above, stood to announce her opposition to the overtime rule. During public testimony, Gauvin claimed that "entrepreneurs" are "the only ones" willing to work overtime for free "so that we don’t have to work 40 and then 20 for somebody else," which would be news to many workers in several industries across the state.

She went on to plug her side gig as a nutrition coach, suggesting that "yoga, meditation, and mindfulness" will help "mitigate...exhaustion" if workers feel tired or stressed about working for free. Strangely enough, she did not volunteer to trade part her salary for wellness tips and yoga coupons. And despite her demonstrably impressive business acumen, she somehow didn't make the connection that more people would be able to afford her wellness coaching if their employers would just pay them for the extra hours they work.

Gauvin capped off her weird rant by paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin, saying she thinks the state should "keep the poor uncomfortable in their poor [sic] and then they’ll want to get out of it." For the perfect dismount, she compared the minimum wage to "shackles," and said other countries "in the western world" without minimum wage laws were "freer than us."

Contrary to Gauvin's argument, Washington's minimum wage has benefited a vast majority of workers, all while the state's economy has grown at the fastest rate in the country.

Continuing to immiserate the poor doesn't appear to be the best strategy for social mobility, either. According to a study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, social mobility in the U.S. "has stalled since the 1990s," and countries with the most robust safety nets are the ones seeing their poor climb out of poverty the quickest. It takes five generations for poor people in the U.S. to earn the average income, whereas it only takes two or three generations in Scandinavian countries.

Many of those countries also report the lowest rates of infant mortality and the highest rates of happiness in the world.

Gauvin isn't the only business owner coming out in opposition to increasing eligibility for overtime. Last month in Kennewick, Arlene's Flowers owner Barronelle Stutzman, who lost a discrimination case after she refused to arrange flowers for a gay wedding in 2013, asked where she was "supposed to find more money" to pay workers, according to the Tri-City Herald. One imagines she might start by not turning away gay couples looking to buy flowers for their wedding.

And, of course, a bunch of big arts nonprofits who are accustomed to taking advantage of their employees' willingness to go the extra mile "for the sake of the thea-tah"—including the 5th Ave Theatre, The Museum of Flight, the Seattle Art Museum, the Frye, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the list goes on—are asking the state to lower the overtime salary threshold to $47,000 and to slow the start of the phrase-in. Incredible.

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Anyhow, if you want to announce your support or opposition to paying people for working overtime, email EAPrules@lni.wa.gov.

Otherwise, send a letter written in your own sweat to:
Employment Standards Program
P.O. Box 44510
Olympia, WA 98504.

The deadline for public comment is Friday, Sept. 20 at 11:59 p.m.