March 4, 1933
The 40-hour work week, minimum wage, child labor laws, and social security – all policies Frances Perkins helped create after becoming the first woman named to a presidential cabinet on this day in 1933.
“The people are what matter to government, and a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.”
Frances Perkins began her work in public service as a social worker. Her pursuit for workers' rights was shaped during a trip to NYC on the day of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, when nearly 150 workers died. She held many positions in the New York government under then-Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt and his predecessor.
“I came to Washington to work for God, FDR, and the millions of forgotten, plain common workingmen.”
Sec. Perkins, who came to the White House to help President Roosevelt draft and implement labor and economic policies during the height of the Great Depression, became the FIRST female cabinet secretary and the LONGEST-serving labor secretary in history. As the head of the Dept. of Labor, she also oversaw the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Perkins’ Lasting Legacy
She played a key role in several parts of FDR’s New Deal – including the passing of the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938).
- The act established a federal minimum wage ($0.25/hour with a gradual increase over the course of 7 years).
- It also lowered the standard work week to 44 hours/week (which would decrease to 40 hours/week by 1940).
What’s Happening Now:
- 40-hour Work Week: The pandemic has impacted this routine for nearly all employees. Managerial workers report working around an hour more each day. As of last summer, hourly employees report working an average of 36% less hours per week.
- Federal Min. Wage: The recent economic stimulus bill incl. a *new* federal min. wage of $15 per hour, but it was removed due to lack of support.
The future of legislation for a new federal minimum wage remains TBD. Since we're speaking of work life, based on 2018 analytics, duties performed by stay-at-home moms equated to a yearly salary of $162,581 with an average of 98 hours of work per week. Like much of our employment data, we don't have recent updated numbers of the impact of the pandemic.
Frances Perkins https://www.ssa.gov/history/fperkins.html
Hall of Secretaries: Frances Perkins https://www.dol.gov/general/aboutdol/history/perkins
A Factory Fire and Frances Perkins https://prologue.blogs.archives.gov/2011/03/25/a-factory-fire-and-francis-perkins/
Frances Perkins, the Woman Behind FDR: https://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=4537
Fair Labor Standards Act: https://francesperkinscenter.org/todays-new-deal/
Managerial roles & 56 min increase per day: https://hbr.org/2020/12/where-did-the-commute-time-go
Independent employees: https://hbr.org/2020/12/where-did-the-commute-time-go
by Jenna Lee,