When Terry Shea stepped off the plane Oct. 7 in Washington D.C., she knew the next several hours would be a whirlwind. In less than 24 hours, the co-owner and vice president of Wrapsody in Hoover and Auburn and a member of the Alabama Retail Association board of directors, would be testifying before a congressional subcommittee on behalf of retailers across the country. The issue at hand – the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed change in overtime rules.
“As soon as I got to D.C., I went directly to the National Retail Federation’s headquarters to begin finalizing my remarks. I was very passionate about the issue and had a lot to say. We were there late into the night shortening and preparing my remarks for the morning ahead. I definitely walked away with a new appreciation of the process,” Shea told us as she described her experience.
The next morning, inside the Rayburn House Office Building, she told members of a subcommittee of the U.S. House Small Business Committee that the proposal to expand overtime wasn’t well thought out and won’t work well for Alabama businesses or their employees.
“We pay a very competitive salary and offer a generous benefits package for our type of retail business, which is why we have such an awesome team. However, the overtime rule ignores the fact that the cost of living in Hoover, Alabama, is very different than in New York City,” Shea said in her testimony on behalf of the National Retail Federation (NRF). “Such a dramatic, one-size-fits-all increase will have real consequences for my business and my employees.”
The proposed rule change would more than double the minimum salary necessary for executive, administrative, professional, outside sales or computer programmer employees to qualify for an overtime exemption. The minimum would go from the current $455 per week, or $23,660 annually, to approximately $970 per week, or $50,440 per year in 2016. In Alabama, the proposed rule could bring 48.6 percent of full-time salaried workers under overtime rules. If the proposed rule becomes permanent, Shea said she will be forced to convert her salaried employees to hourly workers. Off-site retreats, trips to wholesale gift markets and other development and team building also could be off the table under this proposal, she said.
“I’m not saying there doesn’t need to be an increase,” she said. “There doesn’t need to be this drastic of an increase.”
“A lot more needs to be done” in terms of research and getting feedback from small businesses before any change is made in the overtime threshold, Shea said.
Spending her time overseeing her gift and accessories boutiques in Hoover and Auburn, Shea was anything but a political insider. In fact, her first trip to our nation’s capital had only been three months earlier, when she was chosen as one of 52 Retail Champions across the country to attend the National Retail Federation’s Retail Advocates Summit.
“That’s how it all started. And I was so thrilled to get to go and talk about issues that affect retail and small business,” Shea said.
It was during that trip that she became passionate about giving a voice to the proposed rule’s impact on small business.
“This issue with the overtime really hit me hard, because it’s one of those things in which (retailers) really had no voice. There was no way to vote on it; no way for our congressional representatives to vote on it. It would be a directive from the White House to the Department of Labor,” she said.
After returning home, the NRF followed up with all of the Retail Champions asking for more feedback on the proposed overtime regulations. Terry’s submission stood out, and they ultimately chose her to testify on behalf of the nation’s retailers. The other two witnesses at the hearing represented restaurants and home builders.
“To be able to speak for small business and small retailers was HUGE. I was so humbled by it.”
Shea and fellow co-owner Sarah Brown founded Wrapsody in 2004. The two gift stores employ four full-time salaried managers and 25 plus part-time associates, depending on the season. Wrapsody has been an Alabama Retail Association member since 2005.
Story by Melissa Johnson Warnke and Nancy King Dennis / ARA
Photos by Erica Aquilina / NRF
See also :
- Wrapsody’s Terry Shea to Congress: Overtime Proposal Is ‘Not A Good Fix’
- Policy Changes That Will Impact Retailers in 2016
Listen to an Alabama Retail interview with Shea before she headed to D.C.
This was the cover story for the Holiday 2015 edition of the Alabama Retail Quarterly.