Money & Business

Higher-Ed HR Group Rallies to Fight Overtime Rule

By / Mar 29, 2016 (zimmytws/ThinkStock)

New regulations that would expand overtime pay would have serious unintended consequences for higher education, according to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. Here’s how the group is mobilizing at the grassroots to get the message to Congress.

Joining a rising chorus from associations worried about the implications of the Obama administration’s proposed change to the rule governing overtime pay, the organization representing HR professionals in higher education is warning that drastically expanding the number of employees eligible for overtime would hit colleges, universities, and their students hard.

The proposed rule, announced last June, would expand the maximum threshold for overtime eligibility from $23,660 per year to $50,440 per year, which could grant as many as 5 million more American workers overtime pay. A recent survey conducted by ASAE revealed that the overtime rule is members’ number-one legislative concern.

The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) has responded to this issue with agile coordination of government relations, member communication, and digital publishing. Its message: Such a significant increase in overtime pay for employees would put a major strain on college and university budgets, requiring cutbacks in other areas such as student services, degree offerings, and research.

“Administrative and labor costs associated with these changes are massive in a time of limited, fixed, and shrinking budgets for higher education,” according to a CUPA-HR statement on the issue. “Institutions would be under pressure to raise tuition, when student debt is at an all-time high, and decrease services to cover the costs of these changes.”

CUPA-HR CEO Andy Brantley says that message is reaching the halls of Congress. Data from the association was presented at a February 25 hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. “The information provided at the hearing was provided by us to the Department of Labor,” Brantley said, “and that information was the result of extensive, coordinated efforts to collect data—not just rhetoric, but real data that truly resonated with people.”

Brantley said CUPA-HR relies heavily on grassroots involvement to drive the campaign. It uses its Higher Ed Workplace Blog as a way to keep members informed and as a platform for calls to action. It’s also important to show results, he said, citing a recent blog post that demonstrated how CUPA-HR’s efforts are making a demonstrable difference.

Much of the organization’s legislative success is a result of dedicated local leadership.

“For our board members, advocacy is an important, huge part of what they do,” said Brantley. “Because of how effectively our government relations outreach … energized our regional and chapter leadership, we’ve seen some really effective grassroots advocacy, and we’re getting the attention of Congress.”

Brantley said associations aiming to mobilize their members in advocacy work need to make it easy for them to participate and find the information they need. The advocacy and compliance section of the CUPA-HR website is updated regularly and cross-referenced to other pertinent information, making it one of the organization’s most used resources, he noted.

Newton Holt

Newton Holt, a former senior editor of Associations Now, is a freelance writer, editor, and communication strategist in Washington, DC. More »

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