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Reports: Obama to issue executive order expanding overtime pay

President Obama waves as he boards Air Force One in New York on Tuesday after attending a pair of Democratic fundraisers. Tomorrow he plans to use his executive authority to change the nation’s overtime rules. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

This story has been updated.

President Obama will issue an executive order today expanding the number of people who qualify for overtime pay under federal labor law, according to news reports.

According to the Associated Press, the directive is designed to help salaried workers, such as fast-food shift supervisors or convenience store managers, who may be expected to work more than 40 hours a week without receiving overtime pay.

AP reported that under Obama’s proposed changes, the Labor Department could raise the pay threshold for workers covered by overtime rules.

The legal authority derives from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which, under current regulations, guarantees extra pay to salaried workers told to work overtime if they earn less than $455 per week.

Obama’s order would increase that salary level. The reports did not say by how much.

The move would “potentially shift billions of dollars worth of corporate income into the pockets of workers,” the New York Times said on its Web site. The Times quoted Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, as  saying the effort was part of Obama’s pledge to help workers thrive:

“We need to fix the system so folks working hard are getting compensated fairly,” she said on Tuesday evening. “That’s why we are jump-starting this effort.”

Bloomberg said it confirmed the story.

The move is likely to infuriate business interests, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as congressional Republicans, who have accused the president of abusing his executive authority.

Obama and Democrats in congressional races are trying to make helping the middle class their central political theme heading into the 2014 midterm elections, using the issue to draw a contrast with Republicans. Obama has repeatedly said he will use executive orders and regulatory powers to bypass the Republicans, who have used their control the House of Representatives to block most of his initiatives, according to the Times:

“The proposed new regulations would increase the number of people who qualify for overtime  and continue Mr. Obama’s fight against what he says is a crisis of economic inequality in the country. Changes to the regulations will be subject to public comment before final approval by the Labor Department, and it is possible that strong opposition could cause Mr. Obama to scale back his proposal.