Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate campaigns in Butler County

Ohio Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate Betty Sutton speaks to a crowd of Butler County Democrats at a Sept. 28 rally. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
Ohio Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate Betty Sutton speaks to a crowd of Butler County Democrats at a Sept. 28 rally. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

The latest message from the Ohio Democratic gubernatorial ticket is that Republican Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine isn’t fighting for middle-class families, and they’re citing a 2016 multi-state lawsuit that includes Ohio.

Ohio Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate Betty Sutton, gubernatorial candidate Rich Cordray’s running mate, told Butler County Democrats at a rally Friday that the 2016 lawsuit is “a perfect example” that shows DeWine is stripping overtime pay for middle-class Ohioans.

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DeWine and running mate Jon Husted, the current Ohio Secretary of State, are the GOP gubernatorial nominees.

The U.S. Department of Labor under the Obama Administration proposed in May 2016 a rule that would require employers to pay overtime to both blue collar and white collar employees making up to $47,476. The rule would have overridden the congressional-approved Fair Labor Standards Act that says employers must pay overtime to blue-collar workers making up to $23,360 that worked overtime.

In September 2016, led by the state of Nevada, Ohio was one of 21 states to oppose implementing the administrative rule. A federal judge granted the injunction.

“We are here today to stand up to Mike DeWine’s efforts to take money out of the pockets of middle-class families. Wall Street continues to see huge profits, and corporate CEOs are raking in huge salaries and bonuses, but middle- and working-class families across Ohio are still hurting,” she said.

Ohio Attorney General spokesman Dan Tierney said the basis of the lawsuit was only about the U.S. Department of Labor under the Obama Administration bypassing congressional authority.

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“It was trying to capture workers that were specifically excluded by the congressional act,” he said. “We filed suit basically claiming that this went further than what Congress had authorized. They were clearly doing something in which the law said they could not, and the court agrees with us.”

An estimated 62 percent of salaried U.S. workers were automatically eligible for overtime in 1975, according to the Economic Policy Institute. But the current salary threshold of $23,660 was set in 2004 and equates to about 7 percent of the workforce, according to the institute.

The Obama White House reported in November 2016 the expanded threshold would have provided overtime pay to more than 4 million people. Sutton said last week that would have been upwards of 36,000 workers in Butler, Hamilton and Warren counties.

“The federal government tried to make it easier for Americans to get overtime compensation,” Sutton said. “That’s money people earned. They showed up to work, they worked hard, they worked long hours and they deserve to be compensated fairly. They deserve that money. Apparently, Mike DeWine disagrees.”

DeWine campaign spokesman Josh Eck said this is “just continued misinformation” by the Cordray-Sutton campaign.

“Mike DeWine has always stood against liberals in Washington going around the people’s elected representatives and making their own rules outside the law, and the courts agreed with Mike DeWine,” he said.

Tierney said there is an effort in Washington, D.C. to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act, but “we don’t know what that will entail.”