U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez praised Southwest Airlines today for the way it compensates some of its workers.
Addressing a national conference of business journalists in greater Washington, D.C., Perez said the decline of “union density” over the years had led to lower wages and contributed to income inequality.
Today “there’s no leverage to better yourself,” he said. “Baggage handler used to be a middle class job. Not now—except at Southwest Airlines.
“Southwest has been the most profitable airline over the last 15 years, debunking the myth that the only way to survive is on the backs of your workers,” Perez added.
Cargo and luggage handlers at Dallas-based Southwest reportedly can earn $53,000 annually, plus overtime.
Perez also talked about the Obama Administration’s new overtime pay rule, under which people earning yearly salaries of less than $47,476 automatically will qualify for overtime pay of time and a half if they work more than 40 hours a week.
He said the new rule is an effort to “level the playing field” after the George W. Bush Administration slashed overtime pay in 2004. That effectively reduced the scope of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, Perez said, adding: “The American people are sick and tired of government not helping them.”
Commenting on talk that he’s on the short list to be Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate this year, the labor secretary said, “I have not been approached, and I love my day job. … That’s my singular focus.”