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Adkins v. Children's Hospital

History Of The Minimum Wage

Federal law under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 requires and controls a minimum hourly wage that governs all employers doing interstate business. In addition, most states have similar minimum wage statutes. The fight for a minimum wage began in the nineteenth century and grew out of state-level outrage over the rise of sweatshops, which forced workers-- especially women, children, and immigrants-- to work over 10 hours a day for low wages often in hazardous conditions. Minimum wage supporters argued that all workers deserved living wages. In 1912, Massachusetts became the first state to enact a minimum wage law. In the 1920s and 1930s, other states followed Massachusetts' example, some motivated by the Great Depression. However, state supreme courts and the U.S. Supreme Court struck down minimum wage legislation as unconstitutionally violating the freedom-to-contract rights of employers.

President Franklin Roosevelt worked with Congress to pass the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, which gave the president the authority to create a minimum wage as part of the federal government's power to regulate interstate business. However, the Supreme Court disagreed and again declared minimum wages unconstitutional. President Roosevelt tried once more in 1937 to have minimum wage legislation enacted with the Fair Labor Standard Act. Finally, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the act in 1941. Beginning at 25 cents an hour and rising to $5.15 an hour in 1997, the minimum wage increases only by congressional approval.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Adkins v. Children's Hospital - Significance, Protective Legislation V. Equality, But Are They Constitutional?, History Of The Minimum Wage