Last week, the Fair Labor Standards Act celebrated its 75th anniversary. When President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law on June 25, 1938 (it wouldn’t become effective until October of that year), the FLSA set the minimum wage at $0.25 per hour and set the maximum workweek at 44 hours per week. Celebrating this milestone anniversary of landmark legislation, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing titled Building a Foundation of Fairness: 75 Years of the Federal Minimum Wage. This was the second hearing on the minimum wage held by the HELP Committee this year.
Congressional attention on the FLSA in general, and the minimum wage in particular, is nothing new. Since 1938, the FLSA has been amended over 40 times: e.g., increasing the minimum wage rate 22 times, establishing one of more than 50 statutory exemptions, and expanding coverage to various classes of workers. In each session of Congress, a number of bills get introduced that might have some impact on the FLSA. The vast, vast majority of these bills continue to sit despondently on the Capitol steps.
Given the sharp differences between the parties on this issue, including -- as was made clear during the hearing -- disagreement on the expected economic impact of an increased minimum wage, it is likely that the present effort to increase the minimum wage will suffer the same fate.