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Memorandum in support of the Federal Child Labor Amendment, 1935

Trying a different tactic, Congress in 1924 proposed a constitutional amendment to allow federal regulation of child labor. It had widespread national support, including among government officials, but it met strong opposition from industry and other sectors. This memo describes the methods used by the well-organized opposition. The proposed amendment failed ratification by the required three-fourths of the states.

National Child Labor Committee Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Memorandum in support of the Federal Child Labor Amendment, 1935

Is Child Labor Law Constitutional?

It took Congress and the Supreme Court decades to agree that federal regulation of child labor was constitutional. Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana introduced the first federal child-labor bill in 1906. That bill failed, but Congress passed subsequent bills in 1916 and 1919, only to see them struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Finally, in 1941, the Supreme Court reversed its earlier opinions, recognizing Congress’s power to regulate child labor as stipulated in the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.

Congress and the Supreme Court have interpreted the Constitution differently on some issues. Through opposing laws and legal decisions spanning a quarter century, the two branches eventually agreed that legislation regulating child labor is constitutional.