Fair Labor Standards Act

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Today we are fortunate to have laws to protect us from being forced to work excessive hours without being fairly compensated. We have laws to protect our children from being forced to work at an early age and these laws protect us from working in unsafe and unhealthy conditions. In 1938 our 32nd president Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to have the “Fair Labor Standards Act” passed and signed into law. This piece of legislation was a land mark in our history. It banned most child labor; it set a minimum hourly wage and set the standard work week. This was the beginning that made employers develop records to keep track of the wages that they paid to their employees and records of the hours the employees were working. The Supreme Court had been one of the major obstacles to wage-hour and child-labor laws. In the 1936 Presidential race wage-hour legislation was a campaign issue and Roosevelt promised to seek some constitutional way of protecting workers. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt won the 1936 election by a landslide he was determined to overcome the obstacles of the Supreme Court’s opposition as soon as possible. Roosevelt and his Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins tried to make a model for employers of government contractors in all fields, not just construction. But the Federal Government actually encouraged employers to exploit labor because the Government had to award every contract to the lowest bidder. President Roosevelt and Frances Perkins continued to try to get congress to pass acts to prohibit the labor of children and set minimum wages and hours. The “Fair Labor Standard Act” in a draft form was sent to the White House where two trusted legal advisers of the President, and with the Supreme Court in mind, added new provisions to the already lengthy bill. Roosevelt had told his Secretary of Labor, that the length and complexity of the bill caused some of its difficulties with Congress, and asked for it to be shortened. Lawyers tried to simplify the bill but faced the problem that, although legal language makes legislation difficult to understand, bills written in simple English are often difficult for the courts to enforce. Because the wage-hour, child-labor bill had been drafted with the Supreme Court in mind, the bill could only be cut from 40 pages to 10 pages. The bill was voted upon May 24, 1938 and after the House had passed the bill, the Senate-House Conference Committee made more changes to reconcile differences. During the legislative battles over fair labor standards, members of Congress had proposed 72 amendments. Almost every change had exemptions, narrowed coverage, lowered standards, weakened administration, limited investigation, or in some other way worked to weaken the bill. What had survived was approved by the conference committee and passed the House on June 13, 1938 and then the Senate approved it. Congress then sent the bill to the President, and on June 25, 1938, the President signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law. This affected industries that employed about one-fifth of the US workforce. About 700,000 workers were affected by the wage increase and 13 million more were affected by the hour’s provision. It mostly affected white males, and about 14 percent of women (http://www.u-s-history.com). Children under the age of fourteen were no longer legally allowed to work with some exceptions in the agricultural industries and family businesses. Children under the age of eighteen were banned from working “hazardous” jobs in mining and some factory jobs. This had greatly reduced the number of children injured by bad working conditions. Children between the ages of 14 and 16 have had additional restrictions on the number of hours they are allowed to work to encourage them to stay in school. During a school day they are only allowed to work three hours and no more than eighteen hours in a school week. Children are not allowed to work before 7a.m. and after 7...
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