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S. 2475, A Bill to provide for . . . fair labor standards in employments and affecting interstate commerce . . . (Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938), December 17, 1937

Finally, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established a 40-hour week and minimum wage for most workers. It banned employment of children under 16 in hazardous industries and protected the educational opportunities and welfare of minors. Based on Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce, it, too, was challenged in court.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

S. 2475, A Bill to provide for . . . fair labor standards in employments and affecting interstate commerce . . . (Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938), December 17, 1937 S. 2475, A Bill to provide for . . . fair labor standards in employments and affecting interstate commerce . . . (Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938), December 17, 1937

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.