Readings on the Relation of Government to Property and Industry

By Samuel P. Orth | Go to book overview

VI
LABOR LAWS AND THE LABOR CONTRACT

PROGRESSIVE TENDENCIES IN LABOR LAW ADMINISTRATION IN AMERICA

BY JOHN B. ANDREWS, SECRETARY AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR LABOR LEGISLATION

(From American Labor Legislation Review, December, 1913)

One of the most important phases of the newer relations the government is assuming toward industry is discovered in the rapidly multiplying laws affecting labor: they embrace not only factory regulations, but laws pertaining to the labor contract, hours, wages, employers' liability. The attitude of the courts towards labor laws and labor disputes, especially towards boycotts, is of growing importance. -- EDITOR'S NOTE.

Numerous as the obstacles usually are to securing the enactment of wise labor laws, to secure their efficient enforcement is even more difficult. Much of our labor law in the past has failed of its purpose on account of defective administration.

During the first fifty years of labor legislation in America little attention was given to the problems of enforcement. No special machinery was created to inquire into the operation of these laws. No new authorities were given the responsibility of enforcing them.

But beginning in Massachusetts in the year 1869, with the formation of the first state Labor Bureau in the world, a new chapter opened in which is recorded a long succession of attempts to organize state machinery for the systematic investigation of labor conditions and the publication of labor statistics. It was not until several years later, however, that state bureaus were created for the definite purpose of inspecting work places to discover and prosecute violations of the law. State after state has established bureaus of factory inspection and labor statistics until such bureaus exist to-day in forty-two states. Indeed, in several instances, within a single commonwealth the various recognized functions of a labor bureau are scattered through more than half- a-dozen different bureaus, boards or departments. This lack of unity of authority and responsibility has been one of the causes of lax

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