Is Minimum Wages Unconstitutional? Essay

2084 words - 9 pages

Every nation in this world has specific ideas and beliefs associated with it. The French are associated with wine and fine food, while Italy is known for their geographic beauty. Up until 70 or so years ago the words “Lassie Faire” went hand and hand with the United States. Lassie Faire, or free market, was one of the major ideals that propitiated the foundation of this nation. Yet in the mid 1930’s the Federal Government pushed into law the Fair Labor Standards Act there by betraying the American peoples trust and turning it’s back upon our illustrious past.

Up until 1938 the United States Supreme Court had routinely declared any type of minimum wage law unconstitutional. First in ...view middle of the document...

(Leuchtenburg,133) The court was split down the middle in political terms, with three liberal justices being sympathetic for the New Deal (Brandeis, Stone and Cardozo); on the conservative side were four justices who voted against the New Deal(McReynolds, Butler, Van Devanter and Sutherland) The swing votes were Chief Justice Evan Hughes and Justice Owen Roberts. The court was officially split 5-4 on all New Deal related cases there by defeating the Presidents efforts by one vote. President Roosevelt’s response was seen on February 5, 1937, when he sent a special message to Congress proposing legislation granting the president new powers to add additional judges to all federal courts whenever there were sitting judges age 70 or older who refused to retire. The President acted as if his proposal was a kind gesture to help relieve the workload burdens, yet Roosevelt’s real intentions can be seen in his blunt language.

“A part of the problem of obtaining a sufficient number of judges to dispose of cases is the capacity of the judges themselves. This brings forward the question of aged or infirm judges- a subject of delicacy and yet one which requires frank discussion. In exceptional cases, of course, judges, like other men, retain to an advanced age full mental and physical vigor. Those not so fortunate are often unable to perceive their own infirmities….A lower mental of physical vigor leads men to avoid an examination of complicated and changed conditions. Little by little, new facts blurred through old glasses fitted, as it were, for the needs of another generation; older men, assuming that the scene is the same as it was in the past, cease to explore or inquire into the present or the future. (Leuchtenburg, 134)”

The practical effect of his idea would be that now the President could appoint 6 new judges to the Supreme Court( and 44 to the lower) thus tipping the scales in his favor. Despite the fact that his court-packing scheme caused major debate and division of loyalty it appeared that the legislation was headed for passage. In what is considered “the switch in time that saved nine” Justice Roberts voted to uphold a minimum wage law in Washington that was previously declared unconstitutional in New York. This switch helped save the Supreme Court, and after Justice Van Devanter retired in 1937, Roosevelt’s position was secure. So in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Acts were passed there by regulating the length of the workweek, establishing a minimum wage, and banning the use of children under the age of 14 for work. The constitutionality of the Fair Labor Standards Act rests on meeting the Criteria established by Section 3, Article 8, of the United States Constitution. This states that Congress shall have the power to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States. To make all laws, which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers, vested...

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