Industry and Labor Under the Wage-Hour Act

November 1, 1938

Report Outline
Putting the Law into Effect
Coordination of State and Federal Laws
The Constitutionality of Labor Standards Legislation
Criticisms and Disputed Interpretations of the Act

Putting the Law into Effect

Reports of the first week under the Fair Labor Standards act of 1938, which went into effect on October 24, indicate that its immediate results were considerably less far reaching than bad been anticipated in many quarters. In a few industries, notably pecan-shelling, tobacco-stemming, and lumber manufacturing in the South, there were extensive layoffs of employees, but the total number is small compared with the generally accepted estimate of 11,000,000 workers who are covered by the provisions of the new law.

A compilation of average weekly earnings in manufacturing industries prepared by the Department of Labor shows that the average in every state during the month of August was higher than the present legal minimum. It seems probable that the estimates of Administrator Andrews of the newly created Wage and Hour division of the Department of Labor that 1,500,000 employees would benefit immediately from the maximum hour provisions, and 750,000 from the minimum wage provisions, were too high. The real effectiveness of the law will be felt much more widely next year when weekly hours are shortened to 42 and the minimum wage raised to 30 cents an hour. When the 40-hour week becomes the standard in 1940, and the minimum wage is 40 cents an hour in 1945 or before if recommended by industry committees, millions of workers will be directly affected.

In the meantime, the chief source of confusion created by the act is uncertainty as to which industries are subject to its provisions. The Administrator is given no discretion to decide this and other disputed points, which cannot be authoritatively clarified until test cases have been ruled upon by the Supreme Court. Employee suits will undoubtedly be brought in numerous cases involving a question as to whether a particular business is or is not engaged in interstate commerce.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Cost of Living and Wages
Apr. 17, 2020  Inequality in America
Sep. 08, 2017  Universal Basic Income
Apr. 08, 2016  Future of the Middle Class
Apr. 18, 2014  Wealth and Inequality
Jan. 24, 2014  Minimum Wage
Jun. 19, 2009  Rethinking Retirement
Mar. 06, 2009  Middle-Class Squeeze
Mar. 14, 2008  Gender Pay Gap
Dec. 16, 2005  Minimum Wage
Sep. 27, 2002  Living-Wage Movement
Apr. 17, 1998  Income Inequality
Oct. 27, 1978  Wage-Price Controls
Jun. 16, 1978  Military Pay and Benefits
Mar. 23, 1966  Rising Cost of Living
Oct. 25, 1961  Price-Wage Restraints in National Emergencies
Jun. 21, 1961  Wage Policy in Recovery
Jun. 11, 1958  Prices and Wages in the Recession
Sep. 18, 1957  Control of Living Costs
Nov. 02, 1955  Wages, Prices, Profits
Jan. 26, 1954  Minimum Wage Raise
Jan. 02, 1954  Cost of Living
Jan. 21, 1953  Guaranteed Annual Wage
Dec. 17, 1952  Future of Price and Wage Controls
Nov. 19, 1951  Fringe Benefits and Wage Stabilization
Dec. 06, 1950  Wage Control
Jun. 13, 1949  Wages in Deflation
Jun. 04, 1947  Guarantees of Wages and Employment
Oct. 29, 1946  Decontrol of Wages
Dec. 01, 1945  Minimum Wages
Sep. 29, 1945  Wage Policy
Oct. 27, 1944  Wage Security
May 17, 1943  Incentive Wage Payments
Aug. 25, 1941  Prices, Profits, and Wage Control
Apr. 28, 1941  Wartime Changes in the Cost of Living
Sep. 21, 1940  Two Years of the Wage-Hour Law
Nov. 01, 1938  Industry and Labor Under the Wage-Hour Act
Jan. 20, 1938  Wage Rates and Workers' Incomes
Apr. 11, 1935  The Cost of Living in the United States
Sep. 01, 1930  Wages and the Cost of Living
May 24, 1930  The Anthracite Wage Agreement
Feb. 20, 1925  Measure of Recovery in Profits and Wages Since 1920–21 Depression