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President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal statute which provides for the minimum wage, for overtime pay after 40 hours per week, and prohibits oppressive child labor. In proposing this landmark legislation, President Roosevelt famously said:

Our Nation so richly endowed with natural resources and with a capable and industrious population should be able to devise ways and means of insuring to all our able-bodied working men and women a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor, no economic reason for chiseling workers' wages or stretching workers' hours.

Enlightened business is learning that competition ought not to cause bad social consequences which inevitably react upon the profits of business itself. All but the hopelessly reactionary will agree that to conserve our primary resources of man power, government must have some control over maximum hours, minimum wages, the evil of child labor and the exploitation of unorganized labor.

It seems ironic that today you'll probably find more "hopelessly reactionary" opponents of workers' rights in the Republican party, as well as among economists, than at any time since the Great Depression, even as history and facts refute them at every turn. The party of Eric Cantor opposes minimum wage increases in spite of studies which show that it doesn't cost jobs, and that increases in pay to workers at this level go right back into the economy in the form of purchases which stimulate demand. Under the FLSA, business must compete on who can do a better job, not who can reduce overhead by screwing their employees the most. And businesses which pay well get better employees with less turnover--see the recent Bloomberg article on Costco (whose CEO, by the way, supports a minimum wage of $10, even more than the $9 figure proposed by the Obama administration).

My experience dealing with employment law in general and the FLSA in particular convinces me that most employers want to do the right thing.  Because of this, a lot of people, including those very employers, think laws like the FLSA are outdated.  What they don't consider is that if 1 out of 10 employers wants to do the wrong thing, the other 9 will find themselves in a race to the bottom, trying to compete with the worst apples in the barrel. The FLSA doesn't punish the good guys, it protects them, along with their employees, from the scoundrels.

Originally posted to btfjd on Tue Jun 25, 2013 at 12:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.


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Comment Preferences

  •  While 66 Years and 2 Days Ago (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brae70, Dirtandiron, radmul

    Taft-Hartley passed, an early major retreat from the 75 year old bill that has never been reversed.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Jun 25, 2013 at 12:48:24 PM PDT

    •  The same Congress which passed Taft Hartley (0+ / 0-)

      also limited, although not fatally, the FLSA when they passed the Portal to Portal Act.

      The Democrats had run Congress since the 1932 elections.  After the war and FDR's death, the 1946 elections produced big Republican majorities in both the Senate and the House.  The R's rolled back a number of labor protections.

  •  This: (4+ / 0-)
    What they don't consider is that if 1 out of 10 employers wants to do the wrong thing, the other 9 will find themselves in a race to the bottom, trying to compete with the worst apples in the barrel.
    is the major point that libertarians fail to understand. Their boilerplate response to any proposed labor legislation ("just open your own business and then you can do it that way") simply does not hold water in the real world.
  •  One has to wonder...... (0+ / 0-)

       ...about the fate of any similar legislation today.

    Compost for a greener piles?

    by Hoghead99 on Wed Jun 26, 2013 at 06:16:49 AM PDT

  •  Mention should always be made of Francis Perkins (0+ / 0-)

    when referring to New Deal legislation.

    Conservatives don't change:

    When the Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938, Perkins had managed to persuade Congress to eliminate "labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standards of living necessary for health, efficiency and well-being of workers." The law also established a minimum wage.

    On the other hand, Congressional conservatives were angered with Perkins when on one occasion she had refused to deport Harry Bridges, the head of the Westcoast Longshore Union.

    Bridges, an Australian longshoreman who came to America in 1920, fought to create a union open to all races, religions, and political preference and worked to ensure safe working conditions, health care benefits, and establish pensions. He was accused of being a Communist. The conservatives brought an impeachment resolution against Perkins in 1939; however, due to the lack of evidence, the impeachment hearings were eventually dropped.
    •  She was a pioneer for women, and for workers. (0+ / 0-)

      As the first woman in the Cabinet, her mere presence represented progress. But her influence went beyond that.  Like Eleanor, she was constantly pushing FDR on progressive policies.

      Perkins came by her sympathy for the plight of workers honestly.  In one of those strange ironies, she was having tea with a friend in New York in 1911 when they heard screams from what turned out to be the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Witnessing that event was a seminal experience for her.  She became a part of the investigating team, along with Robert Wagner. Perkins became Secretary of Labor, and Wagner, as a Senator, sponsored the Wagner Act, better know as the National Labor Relations Act. There could be no better epitaph for those workers, mostly young immigrant women, who lost their lives in that tragedy than the fact that it inspired people like Perkins to do so much to prevent such tragedies, and to improve the lot of workers in the US.

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