Tag Archives: Labor

A King who cared for labor

Labor marching to honor Martin Luther King in 2015 (photo by JPF)

Labor marching to honor Martin Luther King in 2015 (photo by JPF)

The Reverend Martin Luther King compared himself to Moses who led his people out of slavery, saw the Promised Land, but never got there himself.

In April of 1968, Martin Luther King was in Memphis, Tennessee supporting a garbage workers’ strike. Dr. King cared about workers.

On the evening of April 3rd, Dr. King told the congregation, “I don’t know what will happen now.” He said he’d “been to the mountain top” and “seen the Promised Land” but “I may not get there with you.”

His promise, however, was that “we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

Toward evening, that next day, April 4th, King stepped out on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.

A rifleman shot a .30-06 caliber bullet that broke Dr. King’s jaw, cut through his neck and spinal cord, and the slug lay spent in his shoulder blade. King died.

Robert Kennedy said in Indianapolis to a crowd that had not yet heard of King’s death that we must “tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world.”

We have an annual March in Loudoun County to honor Martin Luther King. Savageness, however, still abides in the body politic. Continue reading

75 Years of 40 Hour Weeks

Today is the 75th Anniversary of the Public Contracts Act of 1936. In the history of America, this is a major event, and one that even today, remains an anathema to conservatives nationwide. That is because the Public Contracts Act of 1936 established the 40-hour work-week in the United States, set minimum ages for workers and even took on a minimum wage.

The Roosevelt-Perkins remedial initiative resulted in the Public Contracts Act of 1936 (Walsh-Healey). The act required most government contractors to adopt an 8-hour day and a 40-hour week, to employ only those over 16 years of age if they were boys or 18 years of age if they were girls, and to pay a “prevailing minimum wage” to be determined by the Secretary of Labor. – U.S. Department of Labor

The Public Contracts act remains the law of the land today.

The significance of June 30th’s bill was the use of the Federal Government’s purchasing power to establish labor standards. It wasn’t about imposing rules on the market by fiat, but rather by using the government’s own purchasing decisions and criteria to lead the market by example. We may recognize this approach in a thousand small things (and big things) done by governments nationwide, today, but it was the Public Contracts Act that began this work as a matter of law.

Today is a keynote anniversary in the history of American progress, and worth noting in some small way.