Why Oregon’s new overtime caps need a second look
A recent Oregonian/OregonLive story put a spotlight on the decline in manufacturing hours worked in recent months. The story highlighted pressures from global trade tensions, as well as an overall global decline in growth in the industry. The story also briefly mentioned another factor that could be weighing on the data and contributing to one of the steepest declines in manufacturing hours worked in the country: Oregon’s new overtime restrictions.
Lawmakers passed a new law in 2017 that capped the number of hours manufacturing workers are allowed to work during a seven-day period. While this law does not apply to all manufacturing workers in the same way, it did make it illegal for many employees to work more than 60 hours per week, even on a voluntary basis.
The law has had negative impacts on employers and employees alike. Employers, who are desperate for man hours amid a chronic shortage of skilled workers, are finding it even more difficult to fill shifts. Employees, on the other hand, are now prohibited from working extra hours and earning extra income.
As Oregon’s manufacturing sector begins to show signs of weakness, our state’s overtime caps deserve a second look. Two bills (HB 2175, SB 110) introduced during the 2019 legislative session would have provided reasonable changes to the current law, providing workers with the option to earn extra income while providing employers with greater flexibility when it comes to filling shifts. Unfortunately, neither bill received a hearing from lawmakers.
The concept will likely be introduced next year when lawmakers return to Salem to convene the 2020 session. Legislators would be wise to give the proposal the consideration it deserves and work to restore workers’ ability to work and earn more money while also protecting one of the state’s most vital industries from any further slowdown.