This year marks the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, in which President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the forced removal of anyone who posed a “threat” to designated military zones during World War II.
In 1936, during the throes of the Great Depression, FDR addressed a deeply divided and economically insecure nation on the eve of Labor Day:
“There are those who fail to read both the signs of the times and American history. They would try to refuse the worker any effective power to bargain collectively, to earn a decent livelihood and to acquire security. It is those short-sighted ones, not labor, who threaten this country with that class dissension which in other countries has led to dictatorship and the establishment of fear and hatred as the dominant emotions in human life.”
The parallels to what’s happening today are remarkable.
While the circumstances differ from now, the insecurity so many felt in 1936 is as strong as it was then. It exists across sectors. It exists regardless of geography. It exists because the wealthy few have reaped the rewards of our labor without sharing the prosperity.
Business groups and their political allies have consistently attacked the idea of a minimum wage ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed it during the Depression to help stimulate the economy. And yesterday — the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which FDR signed on June 25, 1938 to establish the minimum wage as well as the eight-hour day, paid overtime and child labor protections — their contemporary counterparts are still at it.
A recent report by the National Employment Law Project and the Cry Wolf Project, Consider the Source: 100 years of Broken Record Opposition to the Minimum Wage, chronicles the history of unchanging sky-is-falling rhetoric by business interests opposed to minimum wage laws.
Even today, business groups and their political allies still complain that the minimum wage violates employers’ freedom to set pay levels, forces business firms to cut jobs or even file for bankruptcy,
Our Nation so richly endowed with natural resources and with a capable and industrious population should be able to devise ways and means of insuring to all our able-bodied working men and women a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor, no economic reason for chiseling workers’ wages or stretching workers’ hours.
Enlightened business is learning that competition ought not to cause bad social consequences which inevitably react upon the profits of business itself. All but the hopelessly reactionary will agree that to conserve our primary resources of man power, government must have some control over maximum hours, minimum wages, the evil of child labor and the exploitation of unorganized labor. –FDR, May 1937
In his recent State of the Union address,
“In 1933 we reversed the policy of the previous Administration. For the first time since the Depression you had a Congress and an Administration in Washington which had the courage to provide the necessary resources which private interests no longer had or no longer dared to risk.
This cost money. We knew, and you knew, in March, 1933, that it would cost money. We knew, and you knew, that it would cost money for several years to come. The people understood that in 1933. They understood it in 1934, when they gave the Administration a full endorsement of its policy. They knew in 1935, and they know in 1936, that the plan is working.”—FDR, 1936
Eighty years ago this month, at the height of the worst economic crisis in our nation’s history, Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered on his promise to launch a New Deal for the American people.