, Research Paper
On Saturday, June 25, to avoid pocket vetoes 9 days after congress had adjourned,President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed 121 bills. Among those bills was a landmark lawin the nation s social and economic development-Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.Against a history of judicial opposition, the depression born FLSA had survived, notunscathed, more than a year of congressional altercation. In its final form, the act appliedto industries whose combined employment represented only about one-fifth of the laborforce. In these industries, it banned oppressive child labor and set the minimum hourlywage at 25 cents, and the maximum workweek at 44 hours. In 1933, under the New Deal program, Roosevelt s advisers developed aNational Industrial Recovery Act (NRA). The act suspended antitrust laws so thatindustries could enforce fair-trade codes resulting in less competition and higher wages.As an early step of the NRA, Roosevelt promulgated a President s ReemploymentAgreement to raise wages, create employment, and thus restore business. Employerssigned more than 2.3 million agreements, covering 16.3 million employees. Signersagreed to a work-week between 35 and 40 hours and a minimum wage of 12 to 15 dollarsa week and undertook, with some exceptions, not to employ youths under 16 years of age.Employers who signed the agreement displayed a Badge of honor, a blue eagle over themotto We do our part. On Black Monday, May 27, 1935, the supreme Court disarmed the NRA as themajor depression-fighting weapon of the New Deal. The 1935 case of Schechter Corp. v.United States tested the constitutionality of the NRA by questioning a code to improve thesordid conditions under which chickens were slaughtered and sold to retail kosherbutchers. All nine justices agreed that the act was unconstitutional delegation ofgoverment power to private interests. Even the liberal Benjamin Cardoza thought it was Delegation running riot. Though the sick chicken decision seems an absurd case uponwhich to decide the fate of so sweeping a policy, it invalidated not only the restrictivetrade practices seat by NRA authorized codes, but the codes progressive labor provisionsas well. As if to head off further attempts at labor reform, the Supreme Court in a series ofdecisions, invalidated both State and Federal labor laws. Most notorious was the 1936case of Joseph Tipaldo. The manger of a Brooklyn, N.Y., laundry, Tipaldo had beenpaying nine laundry women only $10 a week, in violation of the New York State minimumwage law. When forced to pay his workers $14.88, Tipaldo coerced them to kick back thedifference. When Tipaldo was jailed on charges of violating the State Law, forgery andconspiracy, his lawyers sought a writ of habeas corpus on grounds the New York law wasunconstitutional. The Supreme Court, by a 5-to-4 majority voided the law as a violationof liberty of contract. When Roosevelt won the 1936 election by 523 electoral votes to 8, he interpretedhis landslide victory as support for the New Deal and was determined to overcome theobstacle of Supreme Court opposition as soon as possible. In February 1937, he struckback at the nine old men of the Benck: He proposed to pack the Court by adding upto six extra judges, one for each judge who did not retire at age 70. Roosevelt furthervoiced his disappointment with the Court at the victory dinner for his second inauguration,saying if the Three-horse team [of their executive, legislative and judicial branches] pullas one, the field will be ploughed, but that the field will not be ploughed if one horse lies down in the traces or plunges off in another direction. However, Roosevelt s metaphorical maverick fell in step. On White Monday, March 29, 1937, the Court reversed its course when it decided the case of West CoastHotel Company v. Parrish. Elise Parrish a former chambermaid at the Cascvadian hotel inWenatchee, Wash, sued for $216.19 in back wages, charging that the hotel had paid herless than the State Minimum wage. In an unexpected turn-around, Justice Owen Robertsvoted with the four-man liberal minority to uphold the Washington minimum wage law. As other close decisions continued to validate social and economic legislation,support for Roosevelt s Court reorganization faded. Meanwhile, Justice Roberts feltcalled upon to deny that he had switched sides to ward off Roosevelt s court-packingplan. He claimed valid legal distinctions between the Tipaldo case and the Parish case.Nevertheless, many historians subscribe to the contemporary view of Robert s vote, that a switch in time saved nine. Many proposals were tried although none were successful. In 1933 Rooseveltasked Frances Perkins to become secretary of labor. Perkins had a bill written that wouldcontain minimum wage standards, but which would be written that if one or two of theprinciples were invalidated the rest of the bill might still be accepted. Perkins sent this billto President Roosevelt. On May 24, 1937 President Roosevelt sent the bill to congress. Senator HugoBlack of Alabama agreed to sponsor the Administration bill in the senate, whileRepresentative William P. Connery of Massachusetts introduced corresponding legislationin the house The Black-Connery bill had wide public support, and its path seemedsmoothed by arrangements for a joint hearing by the labor committees of both houses.This bill initially called for a 40-cent-an-hour minimum wage, a 40-hour maximumworkweek, and a minimum working age of 16. The bill also proposed a five memberlabor standards board which could authorize still higher wages and shorter hours. Opponents of the bill charged that the bill was a bad bill badly drawn whichwould lead the country to a tyrannical industrial dictatorship. several unions becameinvolved in the battle of the bill. The agreements and disagreements went on until July 31,1937, when the severely weakened bill passed the Senate by a vote of 56 to 28 and wouldhave easily passed the house if it had been put up to vote. But a coalition of Republicansand conservative democrats bottled it up in the house rules committee. Congressadjourned without House action on Fair labor standards. An angry President Roosevelt decided to press again for passage of theBlack-Connery bill. Having lost Popularity and split the Democratic party in his battle to pack the supreme court, Roosevelt felt that attacking abuses of child labor andsweatshop wages and hours was a popular cause that might reunite the party. Awage-hour, child-labor law promised to be a happy marriage of high idealism and practical
politics. On October 12, 1937, Roosevelt called a special session of Congress to conveneon November 15. The public interests, he said, required immediate Congressional action: The exploitation of child labor and undercutting of wages and the stretching of the hoursof the poorest paid workers in periods of business recession has a serious effect on buyingpower. Despite White House and Business pressure, the conservative alliance ofRepublicans and southern Democrats refused to discharge the bill as it stood.Congresswoman Mary Norton of New Jersey the new chairman of the house rulescommittee made a valiant effort to shake the bill loose. Many representatives said theyagreed with the principles of the bill but objected to the five man board with broadpowers. In an attempted to jar the bill out of committee Norton offered an amendment tothe five man board to an administrator under the department of labor. By December 2, thebills supporters rounded up enough signers to give the petition the 218 necessary to bringthe bill to a vote. With victory in grasp, the bill became a battle-ground in the war ragingbetween the AFL and the CIO. In the ensuing confusion, shortly before the 1937Christmas holiday, the House vote 218 to 198 to send the bill back to committee. In hermemoir to President Roosevelt Perkins wroteThis was the first time that a major administration bill had been defeatedon the floor of the house. The press took view that this was the deathknell of wage-hour legislation as well as a decisive blow to thePresidents Prestige. Lawyers in the department of labor worked on a new bill. Roosevelt told Perkinsto try to reduce the size of the bill two pages. Keeping the supreme court in mind theywere not able the meet the Presidents goal however, they did condense the bill from 40pages to 10. January of 1938 Perkins brought Roosevelt the revised copy of the bill.Roosevelt approved the bill and sent it to congress. Representative Robert Ramspeck ofGeorgia was appointed to head the subcommittee to bridge the gap between variousproposals. The subcommittee s efforts resulted in the Ramspeck compromise. The Houselabor Committee shot down the compromise by a 10-to-4 vote. Again the House RulesCommittee prevented discussion of the bill on the floor by an 8-to-6 vote. In the January and May of 1938 elections of the House, many older members werevoted out and several new freshman arrived. On May 6, at noon, a petition was placed onthe speakers desk to discharge the bill from the Rules Committee. In two hours andtwenty minutes, 218 members had signed it and more were waiting in the aisles. Greatcontroversy erupted over the provisions of the bill. The south had the biggest problemsdue to labor standards. The minimum wage was reduced to 25 cents an hour due tosouthern protest. The new bill after days of controversy was finally voted on May24,1938. The bill passed with a 314-to-97 majority. After the house had passed the bill,the Senate-House Conference Committee made still more changes to reconcile differences.During the legislative battles over fair labor standards, members of congress had proposed72 amendments. Almost every change sought exemptions, narrowed coverage, loweredstandards, weakened administration, limited investigation, or in some way worked toweaken the bill. The surviving proposal as approved by the conference committee finally passed thehouse on June 13, 1938, by a vote of 291 to 89. Shortly thereafter the Senate approvedthe bill without a record of the votes. Congress then sent the bill to the President. On June25, 1938, the President signed the Fair Labor Standards Act to become effective onOctober 24, 1938. This act of 1938 was applicable to employees engaged in interstate commerce or inthe production of goods for interstate commerce. This did not cover all workers but itwas a good first step. By October 24, 1939 the minimum wage was raised to 30 cents an hour. Thewage was raised again in 1945 to 40 cents an hour. In 1950 it was raised to 75 cents anhour. By March 1, 1956 the minimum wage was increased to 1 dollar an hour. And onSeptember 3, 1961, the wage increased to $1.15 an hour. In 1961 amendments were passed to extend coverage primarily to employees inlarge retail and service enterprises as well as local transit, construction, and gas stationemployees. The wage was set at $1.00 an hour on September 3, 1961. In 63 minimum wage from the 1938 act rose to $1.25 an hour. In 1964 theminimum wage for the 1961 amendments rose to $1.15 and in 1965 rose to $1.25. OnFebruary 1, 1967 The both raised to $.40 and stayed in unison from 67 on. In 1966 an amendment passed extending coverage to state an local govermentemployees of hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. The coverage also was extended tomotels, hotels, restaurants, and farms. On February 1, 1967 there were three separate ratesof minimum wage. The employees covered by the act of 1938 and the amendments of1961 was at $1.60 an hour. The 1966 Amendment split between nonfarm and farm wageswhich were both set at $1 an hour. In 1968 both farm and non-farm wage increased to $1.15. In 1969 they bothincreased to $1.30. In 70 non-farm wage increased to $1.45 and to $1.60 in 71. On May1, 1974 Minimum wage increased to $2 for these covered in the 38 act and 61amendment. The non-farm wage increased to $1.90 and the farm wage increased to$1.60. In 1975 Commerce, interstate, service, and retail employees minimum wageincreased to $2.10, non-farm rose to $2 and farm wage increased to $1.80. In 1976 Commerce, interstate, service, and retail employees minimum wage increased to $2.30,non-farm rose to $2.20 and farm wage increased to $2.00. On January 1, 1977 Non-farmwage increased to $2.30 and farm wages increased to $2.20. On January 1, 1978 Minimum wage was increased for all workers to $2.65. In 79increased to $2.90, in 80 increased to $3.10, in 81 increased to $3.35, in 90 increased to$3.80, in 91 increased to $4.25, in 96 increased to $4.75, and in 97 the minimum wageincreased to $5.15 Now in the year 2000 minimum wage is set at $5.15 an hour. Minimum wage isnot a necessary measure needed in todays economy as it was when it was founded. nowyou can go almost anywhere and work at a McDonalds and start above minimum wage.The only place were minimum wage is really a big subject is in rural areas of the UnitedStates. For example the delta in Mississippi minimum wage would affect life. But in amajority of the U.S. an increase of the minimum wage would have only slight affects otherthan increased price. A new minimum wage increase in being pushed in congress. Theeconomy of the U.S. is so strong people do not need to rely on the minimum wage.