Civilizing Capitalism: The National Consumers' League, Women's Activism, and Labor Standards in the New Deal Era

By Landon R. Y. Storrs | Go to book overview

chapter 8

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The Consumers'
League Program
under Attack

The ink was scarcely dry on the Fair Labor Standards Act when it came under fire from a conservative blitz against New Deal labor and social policies. A drive to weaken the FLSA proceeded in tandem with a campaign to undermine the National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act of 1935. State wage and hours laws also faced bitter challenges, especially after war mobilization got under way. The Consumers' League had envisioned that the FLSA, state wage-hour laws, and the Wagner Act together would increase the economic security and political power of American wage earners, especially for "submerged groups" within the working class. The league also had expected that its network of middle-class white women would participate in the implementation of these policies. However, these hopes ran aground on the resistance of employers and politicians, whose leverage was increased by impending war and the accompanying surge of superpatriotism, and of male policy experts and bureaucrats, who took new interest in labor standards administration now that it was sanctioned at the national level for men as well as women.

The rightward turn at home coincided with fascist triumphs abroad. Alarmed, left-liberals

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