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Efforts to Regulate Maximum Hours (Overtime) before The Fair Labor Standards Act



VLibrary.info Logo  1840: "The first attempt legally to regulate the working hours of men in the United States was the executive order of President Van Buren in 1840, stipulating a ten-hour day in government navy-yards."

(See page 248, Principles of labor legislation, by John R. Commons and John B. Andrews. New York ; London : Harper and Brothers., 1920.))

VLibrary.info Logo  1842: Massachusetts and Connecticut limited the maximum workday for children under the age of 12 to ten hours.

(See page 30, Crusade for the children; a history of the National Child Labor Committee and child labor reform in America, by Walter I. Trattner. Chicago, Quadrangle Books, 1970.)

VLibrary.info Logo  1868: Congress provided that "eight hours shall constitute a day's work for all laborers, workment, and mechanics who may be employed by or on bahalf of the government of the United States." [United States, Revised Statutes, 1878, Title 43, Sec. 3738. See United States Commissioner of Labor, Second Special Report, 1896.]

VLibrary.info Logo  May 8, 1895: The New York Bakeshop Act of 1895 set some sanitation standards for bakeries and provided that they could not employ their workers for more than 60 hours in any one week

VLibrary.info Logo  February 28, 1898: In Holden v. Hardy, 69 U.S. 366, the Supreme Court approved a Utah law regulating the hours of labor for men working in mines.

VLibrary.info Logo  April 17, 1905: Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45. The Supreme Court ruled that The New York Bakeshop Act of 1895 was unconstitutional because of the provisions limiting the number of hours an employee could work. "Clean and wholesome bread does not depend upon whether the baker works but ten hours per day or only sixty hours a week. The limitation of the hours of labor does not come within the police power on that ground."

VLibrary.info Logo  1907: "Excessive hours having been recognized as a factor in railroad accidents, both state and federal legislation was passed to change the situation. In 1907, by a law applicable to workers on interstate railroads, Congress set 16 as the maximum number of hours to be worked in one day and provided for adequate rest periods. (34 Stat. 1415 (1907), 45 U. S. C. §61 (1935)) [Regulation of Wages and Hours Prior to 1938, by Frank T. De Vyver. Page 325]

VLibrary.info Logo  February 24, 1908: Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412. The Supreme Court ruled that legislation limiting the hours of work for women did not violate the constitution, "even when like legislation is not necessary for men and could not be sustained."

VLibrary.info Logo  1912: A bill limiting the hours of work for women and children in New York factories to 54 hours a week was passed through the efforts of Frances Perkins, at that time a lobbyist for the National Consumer's League.

VLibrary.info Logo  1916: "In 1916, at the insistence of President Wilson who sought to avert a strike, Congress provided for a basic 8-hour day for railroad trainmen with no reduction in wages. (39 Stat. 721 (1916), 45 U. S. C. §65 (1935). [Regulation of Wages and Hours Prior to 1938, by Frank T. De Vyver, page 325]

VLibrary.info Logo  April 9, 1917: Bunting v. Oregon, 243 U.S. 426. The Supreme Court declared unconstitutional an Oregon law requiring payment of "overtime at the rate of time and one-half of the regular wage" to employees of mills, factories, and manaufacturing establishments.

VLibrary.info Logo  September 19, 1918: Congress approved the District of Columbia minimum-wage law (40 Stat. 960) guaranteeing a minimum wage to women and children employed in the District of Columbia.

VLibrary.info Logo  1922: President Warren Harding "… invited 41 leaders of the steel industry to dinner at the White House and afterward gave them his blunt opinion that the twelve-hour day must go. As he wrote to one of the heads of the box baord industry, congratulating him for taking the step at which the steel industry still hesitated:…" the President expressed his opinion that "Nothing will contribute so much to American industrial stability and add so much to American industrial happiness as the abolition of the twelve-hour working day and the seven-day working week."

(See "The Great Depression" on the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum, at https://hoover.archives.gov/exhibits/great-depression#:~:text=The%20Great%20Depression%202022%20The%20Herbert%20Hoover%20Presidential,the%20public%20Monday%20through%20Friday%2C%209%3A00-12%3A00%2C%20and%2012%3A30-4%3A15. )

"Some of the steel tycoons objected to the President's interference, but they finally agreed to appoint a committee to consider a reductin of the workday "if, and when, practical." The committee after some months concluded that the twelve-hour day of itself had not injured their employees, "physically, mentally, or morally," and that it could not even be said that it denied the worker enough time with his family. To abolish it would dislocate the industry, raise hte cost of steel production 15 per cent, and require 60,000 additional and unavailable employees." .

(See pages 552-553, Francis Russell, President Harding : his life and times, 1865-1923. London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1969.)

VLibrary.info Logo  November 1929: "After the stock market crash, President Hoover sought to prevent panic from spreading throughout the economy. In November, he summoned business leaders to the White House and secured promises from them to maintain wages. According to Hoover’s economic theory, financial losses should affect profits, not employment, thus maintaining consumer spending and shortening the downturn. Hoover received commitments from private industry to spend $1.8 billion for new construction and repairs to be started in 1930, to stimulate employment."

(See pages 552-553, Francis Russell, President Harding : his life and times, 1865-1923. London : Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1969.)

VLibrary.info Logo  1930: President Hoover established the President's Emergency Committee for Employment.

VLibrary.info Logo  1931: President Hoover encouraged a Share-the-Work approach.

VLibrary.info Logo  1931: As late as 1931 the AFL executive council in reporting to the annual convention recommended that the AFL oppose a federal constitutional amendment then pending in the House which would give power to Congress “to reduce the number of hours of service per day for which contracts for employment may be lawfully made.”

(See page 199, Labor and the New Deal, edited by Milton Derber and Edwin Young. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1957.)

VLibrary.info Logo  December 21, 1932: Senator Hugo Black introduced a bill (S. 5267) limiting employment to no more than five days per week or six hours per day.

Be it enacted, etc., That no article or commodity shall be shipped, transported, or delivered in interstate or foreign commerce which was produced or manufactured in any mine, quarry, mill, cannery, workshop, factory, or manufacturing establishment situated in the United States in which any person was employed or permitted. to work more than five days in any week or more than six hours in any day: Provided, That this section shall not apply to commodities or articles produced or manufactured before the enactment of this law.

SEC. 2. Any person who ships, transports, or delivers, or causes to be shipped, transported, or delivered in interstate commerce, any commodities or articles contrary to the provisions of section 1 of this act shall be punished by a fine of not less than $200 or by imprisonment for not more than three months, or by both such fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.

(See page 820 of the Congressional Record, Seventy-Second Congress, Second Session, Volume 76, Part 1, available at https://www.govinfo.gov/app/collection/crecb/_crecb/Volume%20076%20(1933)/GPO-CRECB-1933-pt1-v76)

VLibrary.info Logo  April 6, 1933: The Senate passed S. 158, a bill to prevent interstate commerce in certain commodities and articles produced or manufactured in industrial activities in which persons are employed more than 5 days per week or 6 hours per day.

(See page 1350 of the Congressional Record, Seventy-Second Congress, First Session, Volume 77, Part 2, available at https://www.govinfo.gov/app/collection/crecb/_crecb/Volume%20077%20(1933)/GPO-CRECB-1933-pt2-v77).)

VLibrary.info Logo  June 16, 1933: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) into law. It included provisions relating to the establishment of maximum hours of labor.

SEC. 7. (b) The President shall, so far as practicable, afford every opportunity to employers and employees in any trade or industry or subdivision thereof with respect to which the conditions referred to in clauses (1) and (2) of subsection (a) prevail, to establish by mutual agreement, the standards as to the maximum hours of labor, minimum rates of pay, and such other conditions of employment as may be necessary in such trade or industry or subdivision thereof to effectuate the policy of this title; and the standards established in such agreements, when approved by the President, shall have the same effect as a code of fair competition, approved by the President under subsection (a) of section 3.

(c) Where no such mutual agreement has been approved by the President he may investigate the labor practices, policies, wages, hours of labor, and conditions of employment in such trade or industry or subdivision thereof; and upon the basis of such investigations, and after such hearings as the President finds advisable, he is authorized to prescribe a limited code of fair competition fixing such maximum hours of labor, minimum rates of pay, and other conditions of employment in the trade or industry or subdivision thereof investigated as he finds to be necessary to effectuate the policy of this title, which shall have the same effect as a code of fair competition approved by the President under subsection (a) of section 3. The President may differentiate according to experience and skill of the employees affected and according to the locality of employment; but no attempt shall be made to introduce any classification according to the nature of the work involved which might tend to set a maximum as well as a minimum wage.

It also included the provision that "SEC. 206. All contracts let for construction projects and all loans and grants pursuant to this title shall contain such provisions as are necessary to insure (1) that no convict labor shall be employed on any such project; (2) that (except in executive, administrative, and supervisory positions), so far as practicable and feasible., no individual directly employed on any such project shall be permitted to work more than thirty hours in anyone week;

(See Sections 7(b) and 7(c) of the National Industrial Recovery Act (1933), available online at https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/national-industrial-recovery-act )

VLibrary.info Logo  August 10, 1933: President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6246, requiring government contractors to comply with codes of fair competition issued under the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA). This became moot when the Supreme Court struck down the NIRA in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States (1935).

VLibrary.info Logo  May 27, 1935: Schechter Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495. The Supreme Court declared that the National Recovery Act was unconstitutional.

VLibrary.info Logo  June 30, 1936: The Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA) (41 USC §§6501-6511) passed. It established minimum wage, maximum hours, and safety and health standards for work on contracts in excess of $15,000 for the manufacturing or furnishing of materials, supplies, articles, or equipment to the U.S. government or the District of Columbia. All provisions of the PCA are administered by the Wage and Hour Division except the safety and health requirements, which are administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

VLibrary.info Logo  February 5, 1937: President Franklin Roosevelt unveiled the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, which is generally referred to as the "court-packing plan"

VLibrary.info Logo  May 24, 1937: The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1937 was introduced in Congress as S. 2475 in the Senate, and H.R. 7200 in the House of Representatives.

VLibrary.info Logo  June 25, 1938: The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) was passed by Congress and signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

VLibrary.info Logo  October 24, 1938: The Fair Labor Standards Act went into effect.


      VLibrary.info Logo RESOURCES

VLibrary.info Logo  Commons, John R. and Andrews, John B. Principles of labor legislation. New York ; London, Harper and Brothers, 1920.

VLibrary.info Logo  De Vyver, Frank T. Regulation of Wages and Hours Prior to 1938. In The Wage and hour law .... Durham, N.C., School of Law, Duke University, 1939.

VLibrary.info Logo  Russell, Francis. President Harding : his life and times, 1865-1923. London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1969.

VLibrary.info Logo  Trattner, Walter I. Crusade for the children; a history of the National Child Labor Committee and child labor reform in America. Chicago, Quadrangle Books, 1970.

VLibrary.info Logo  United States. Congress. House. Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce. Labor Laws of the United States: Second Special Report of the Commissioner of Labor. Washington, Government Printing Office,

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