Quest For A Minimum Wage – 1948 – Past Daily Reference Room
Since today is Labor Day, and while many people are busy celebrating – it’s also a day to celebrate the struggles, sacrifices and hard-fought battles the Labor movement has had to go through in order to obtain a decent life.
In 1948 the big issue was an increase in the Federal Minimum Wage law. Much the same as it is now, there were those who were dead-against any wage increases; citing inflation, loss of jobs, companies going bankrupt.
There were two bills on Capitol Hill pending – one bill, introduced by Senator Albert Thomas (D-Utah) asked for a wage raise to 75 cents an hour. Another bill, introduced by Senator Joseph Ball (R-Minn.) asked for a wage raise to 60 cents an hour. The Thomas bill would extend minimum wage and overtime provisions to several million persons. Both the Thomas bill and the Ball bill had industry committees, studying the cost of living, and each industry’s ability to pay. The Thomas bill would allow the base pay to go up as high as $1.00 per hour in any particular industry. The Ball bill would allow a raise to 70 cents, but also a lowering to 50 cents in particular industries. There were differences too in limited coverage versus expanded coverage; in the wages themselves, in the overtime provisions and effective enforcement.
This episode of the weekly discussion program Cross-Section: USA looked at both bills and discussed the merits and drawbacks of each bill and how it would effect the workforce.
Although the arguments have changed, as has the amount of influence the Unions now have in the workplace, it’s still an interesting look at what the Labor situation was like in 1948; scarcely three years after the end of World War 2.
To get some idea of what the issues were, and what the solutions being talked about were, here is that episode of Cross-Section: USA, as it was originally broadcast on May 8, 1948 by CBS Radio.