Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938


Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was a very important step toward making the US middle class the strongest in the world. Such an act is felt even to this day..and its importance ensures that employers do not confiscate tips from employees that might be waiters/waitresses for example. The act also ensured against the use of child labor in the United States of which historically was a concern in the USA. Children worked at sweatshops in the USA as some American Employers did not mind using children for jobs that were meant for adults. It was American leaders such as Frances Perkins, Robert Wagner, Mary Norton , Hugo Black, And FDR whom were instrumental in ensuring the very labor rights that make the USA a civilized country.

Fair Labor Standards Act, also called Wages and Hours Act, the first act in the United States prescribing nationwide compulsory federal regulation of wages and hours, sponsored by Sen. Robert F. Wagner of New York and signed on June 14, 1938, effective October 24. The law, applying to all industries engaged in interstate commerce, established a minimum wage of 25 cents per hour for the first year, to be increased to 40 cents within seven years. No worker was obliged to work, without compensation at overtime rates, more than 44 hours a week during the first year, 42 the second year, and 40 thereafter.

Fair Labor Standards Act
President Franklin D. Roosevelt characterized the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), as “the most far-reaching, far-sighted program for the benefit of workers ever adopted in this or any other country." A law drafted by Senator Hugo Black of Alabama and signed into law in June 1938, the FLSA was designed to “put a ceiling over hours and a floor under wages" by establishing an eventual maximum 40 weekly work hours, a minimum wage of 40 cents an hour by 1945, and prohibiting most child labor. The act`s objective was summarized as the “elimination of labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standards of living necessary for health, efficiency and well being of workers."

Before the dawn of the FLSA, John L. Lewis, president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), ordered a series of strikes directed at securing the closed shop, establishing the CIO`s exclusive right to represent workers in collective bargaining, and to defend his newly favored sit-down strike tactic.* While such employers as United States Steel Company complied with Lewis`s demands in March 1937, General Motors and Republican Steel contested the new sit-down`s legality, calling for the Michigan courts to rescue their properties by ordering injunctions against sit-down protesters. Those actions caused a further rise in tension between workers and factory owners, until Governor Frank Murphy`s intervention successfully prevented widespread violence in the automotive industries.

Later that same year, a bitter strike broke out in South Chicago, where 10 people were killed while police were defending the property of Goodyear Tire. Public opinion turned against Lewis and the newly formed CIO because of the recent labor violence caused by the new sit-down strike tactic. As a way to solve some of the issues facing industrial workers, such as in the steel and coal industries, the FLSA was born. But prior to its final ratification, three different versions were batted around Congress.

-Child laborer prior to The Fair standards act

Nearly 700,000 workers were affected by the wage increase initially and some 13 million more were ultimately affected by the hours provision. Those affected by the act were mostly white males (39 percent), compared with only 14 percent of women. Labor unions made efforts to exclude blacks and women from unionized industrial jobs, due to the the latter`s scarcity, and high unemployment during the Depression. However, organized blacks with industrial jobs ultimately benefited from the wage increase and hours provision, although the majority of blacks found their employment in the unskilled and semi-skilled categories, where few or no labor unions had been established. Therefore, the FLSA did not affect several million blacks who worked in the agricultural and domestic sectors.

The strongest opposition came from the U.S. Supreme Court, which in case after case, had struck down laws establishing a minimum wage, number of hours worked, and child labor provisions. Among the most noteworthy cases, the court struck down a federal child-labor law in 1918 in the case of Hammer v. Dagenhart. Also, in the case of Adkins v. Children`s Hospital the court narrowly struck down the District of Columbia law that established minimum wages for women. Strong opposition to the act also came from Southern congressional members whose constituents thought they would be put out of business by a 25 cents-an-hour minimum wage requirement.


Known as “Battling Mary,” Mary Norton was a reformer who fought for the labor and the working-class interests of her urban New Jersey district. She was the first woman to represent an East Coast state in the House of Representatives.



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