The lasting relevance of the Fair Labor Standards Act

By Ben Judge, NCL Public Policy Intern

Last month, in the Education and the Workforce subcommittee on Workforce Protection in the House of Representatives, there was much talk about the changing times, with and certain members calling for “modernization” of one of the most important workers rights laws ever passed—the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). FLSA was passed as one of the New Deal provisions of 1938, covers over 130 million workers, and controls how many hours someone can be required to work in a week.

If you benefit from overtime, minimum wage, or have children who are not working in heavy industry, then this law directly affects you.

How the FLSA protects workers and why the Republicans find it wrong
The FLSA protects workers by limiting the number of hours that can be worked under a normal hourly wage to 40 hour a week.  Whenever someone works over 40 hours they are entitled to overtime.  However, Republicans believe that the traditional 40-hour workweek outlined in the act isn’t flexible enough for the 21st century worker, although the FSLA already allows for a pretty flexible schedule.  Republicans would like the see the act “modernized” by allowing companies to exempt more workers from the FSLA, and bring more workers on as independent contractors.  Republicans says that with more workers exempt and their schedules more flexible that there will be an increase in employment and an increase in economic growth.  To counter that argument, although there could be an increase in employment, the wages of those employees would be much lower and the amount of time they work would be much high.

Moving forward
As attempts to roll back regulation and workers rights, it is important that those who are covered by the FLSA stand up and unite to prevent it from being “modernized” to fit the Republican agenda.  Do not let this important law be weakened!

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