Posted by: JanF | January 13, 2014

Repealing the Weekend

In Wisconsin, the state whose progressive forebears championed labor rights, a move is afoot to “allow” workers to work 7 days a week.

This is being touted by the Republicans as a “win-win”: businesses don’t have to hire more workers, just add hours! And workers can make more money! What could possibly go wrong? Businesses would never coerce workers into working more hours, they lurves their workers!!!

In 1938, President Roosevelt signed into law the Fair Labor Standards Act:

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (abbreviated as FLSA; also referred to as the Wages and Hours Bill) is a federal statute of the United States. The FLSA introduced a maximum 44-hour seven-day workweek, established a national minimum wage, guaranteed “time-and-a-half” for overtime in certain jobs, and prohibited most employment of minors in “oppressive child labor”, a term that is defined in the statute. It applies to employees engaged in interstate commerce or employed by an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, unless the employer can claim an exemption from coverage.

What led to that law? A number of things, including caring about the plight of those who were forced to be wage slaves:

While President Franklin Roosevelt was in Bedford, Mass., campaigning for reelection, a young girl tried to pass him an envelope. But a policeman threw her back into the crowd. Roosevelt told an aide, “Get the note from the girl.” Her note read,

I wish you could do something to help us girls….We have been working in a sewing factory,… and up to a few months ago we were getting our minimum pay of $11 a week… Today the 200 of us girls have been cut down to $4 and $5 and $6 a week.

To a reporter’s question, the President replied, “Something has to be done about the elimination of child labor and long hours and starvation wages.”

-FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, Public Papers and Addresses, Vol. V, New York, Random House, 1936), pp. 624-25.

It took some doing and led to some strong words lashing out at those who would exploit workers:

On May 24, 1937, President Roosevelt sent the bill to Congress with a message that America should be able to give “all our able-bodied working men and women a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” He continued: “A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor, no economic reason for chiseling worker’s wages or stretching workers’ hours.” Though States had the right to set standards within their own borders, he said, goods produced under “conditions that do not meet rudimentary standards of decency should be regarded as contraband and ought not to be allowed to pollute the channels of interstate trade.”

This bears repeating:

“… goods produced under conditions that do not meet rudimentary standards of decency should be regarded as contraband”

Businesses are certainly no more benevolent now than they were in 1938. In fact, encouraged and emboldened by the teaparty brand of Republicans, they are trotting out all their favorite worker-exploitation schemes (what’s wrong with child labor? … good for the little ankle biters to learn the value of a buck!) and working to create a libertarian paradise where they can wreak havoc on the environment to extract every bit of profit out of a state … and then when it is destroyed, simply move on.

It’s time to draw the line. And very sad that the lines drawn back in the Good Government days of FDR are being washed away by the teaparty-inspired race to the bottom.

In 2014, we can draw that line in Wisconsin by repealing the 2010 election and returning to power those who care about our state and those who live and work here.

When we vote, we win. And when we win, workers win.

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