Thursday, August 9, 2012

State Labor Laws, 1937

From North Carolina: a guide to the Old North State, a Federal Writers’ Project book, which is online at

Public opposition to the employment of children in industry had begun to emerge in the 1890s and a number of child labor laws were passed between 1903 and 1931. All of these set the age limit too low—12 years in 1903, increased to 14 years in 1919—and the earlier laws lacked provisions for enforcement. The law that went into effect on July 1, 1937, is regarded as a model measure of its kind. The employment of children in all manufacturing establishments, and in 50 occupations specifically defined as dangerous, is prohibited…. Children between 14 and 16 may work during school vacations not more than 40 hours a week or 8 hours a day in approved occupations, and they are allowed part-time employment during school sessions provided that school and work hours combined do not exceed 8 hours a day.

Until 1937, North Carolina had no maximum-hours law for men, and the 11-hour law for women permitted a longer legal working day for woman than in any other State. The law of 1937 provides a maximum 9-hour day and a 48-hour week for women, with a 10-hour day and a 55-hour week for men. Despite exemptions written into the original bill, the law affects about 200,000 workers in the State and represents a sharp reduction in the maximum hours of labor permitted.

A workmen’s compensation law, administered by the State industrial commission, was passed in 1929; and at a special session held in December 1936 the general assembly enacted an unemployment compensation law, providing for the setting up of a fund, a commission of three members (including the commissioner of labor), and regulations governing benefits, contributions, and machinery for operating the law. The rate for 1938 and thereafter was set at 2.7 percent of wages paid. Benefits are payable through the State unemployment office, and are fixed at not more than $15 or less than $5 a week.

The same session of the general assembly enacted a law accepting the provisions of the Federal Social Security Act and creating a division of public assistance in the State Board of Charities and Public Welfare.

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