Which pieces of federal labor legislation do you believe are most important? Why?

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The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ensures that American workers receive a minimum wage for their work. Before the minimum wage was fully introduced in 1938, employers were free to pay their workers whatever the largely unregulated labor market dictated.

When levels of unemployment were high, employers had the power...

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The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ensures that American workers receive a minimum wage for their work. Before the minimum wage was fully introduced in 1938, employers were free to pay their workers whatever the largely unregulated labor market dictated.

When levels of unemployment were high, employers had the power to drive down wages, safe in the knowledge that there would always be enough people willing to take a job for very little money. This gave employers an unfair advantage over their workers, who'd often have to take on a number of different jobs to make ends meet.

Chronically low wages also tended to go alongside dangerous, unsafe working conditions. Employers unwilling to pay a fair day's pay for a fair day's work invariably weren't all that keen on providing their employees with even minimum standards of workplace health and safety.

However, it would take another thirty-two years after the introduction of the federal minimum wage for the government to establish a federal agency, the OSHA, specifically devoted to protecting occupational health and safety. The OSHA Act of 1970 is another vital piece of federal labor law, which acknowledges the importance of federal government intervention to ensure the protection of American workers.

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I would argue that the most important pieces of federal labor legislation are the Wagner Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The first of these made it much easier for unions to organize while the second set up the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has been given a mandate to enforce laws against discrimination on such grounds as race, sex, age, and disability.

These pieces of legislation have been important because they have to some extent bound the hands of businesses over the years.  We have seen the effects of union contracts on the auto industry and we can argue that anti-discrimination laws have been the cause of many lawsuits such as the gender discrimination suit against Wal-Mart.

From a business perspective, then, these are two of the most important pieces of federal labor legislation.

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