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Liberals and socialists have done much good for country

Liberals and socialists have done much good for country

*Liberals and socialists have done much good for country

Liberals and socialists have done much good for country

Have the liberals and so-called “socialists” changed the very fabric of America? Yes they have, and for the better. Oh my, did I just say for the better?

What many people fail to realize is that what we take for granted today as being “normal” in the workplace, is the result of years, if not decades, of liberal effort. So what can we “blame” the liberals for? Let’s take a look and see what the liberals, along with the Democratic Party have done that is actually positive for the United States.

And yes, these ideas were called socialist and or even communistic when they were first proposed.

Public education: Until the 1840’s the education system was highly localized and available only to wealthy people. Reformers who wanted all children to gain the benefits of education opposed this. Prominent among them were Horace Mann in Massachusetts and Henry Barnard in Connecticut. Mann started the publication of the Common School Journal, which took the educational issues to the public.

Massachusetts passed the first compulsory school attendance laws in 1852, followed by New York in 1853. By 1918 all states had passed laws requiring children to attend at least elementary school. The rise in American high school attendance was one of the most striking developments in U.S. education during the 20th century. From 1900 to 1996 the percentage of teenagers who graduated from high school increased from about 6 percent to about 85 percent. As the 20th century progressed, most states enacted legislation extending compulsory education laws to the age of 16.

Then in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Liberal Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller expanded the SUNY system here in New York drastically. Colleges and universities that are part and parcel of SUNY are all around our area.

Child labor: It took over 100 years to end it by law — 1836. First state child labor law — Massachusetts required children under 15 working in factories to attend school at least three months every year. In 1842 states begin limiting children’s work days. Massachusetts limits children’s work days to 10 hours; other states soon pass similar laws — but most of these laws are not consistently enforced. In 1876, the labor movement urges minimum age law and the Working Men’s Party proposes banning the employment of children under the age of 14. In 1881, the newly formed American Federation of Laborsupports state minimum age laws. In 1892, the Democratic Party adopts platform to ban factory employment for children under 15; 1904 the National Child Labor Committee forms and an aggressive national campaign for federal child labor law reform begins.

In 1916, new federal law sanctions state violators and the first federal child labor law prohibits movement of goods across state lines if minimum age laws are violated (law in effect only until 1918, when it’s declared unconstitutional, then revised, passed, and declared unconstitutional again). The first attempt to gain federal regulation fails in 1924.

Congress passes a constitutional amendment giving the federal government authority to regulate child labor, but too few states ratify it and it never takes effect and in 1936, the federal purchasing law passes.

The Walsh-Healey Act states U.S. government will not purchase goods made by underage children.

In 1937, a second attempt to gain federal regulation fails in 1937. The second attempt to ratify constitutional amendment giving federal government authority to regulate child labor falls just short of getting necessary votes.

New federal law sanctions growers with the Sugar Act. Making sugar beet growers ineligible for benefit payments if they violate state minimum age and hours of work standards.

By 1938 federal regulation of child labor achieved in Fair Labor Standards Act and for the first time, minimum ages of employment and hours of work for children are regulated by federal law.

Workplace safety: It was called the 1911 Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire, which occurred on March 25, 1911, in Manhattan, in New York City. Back in 1911 there were few labor laws or even unions. The factory where the fire happened employed roughly 500 women and young girls. The normal workweek was a 52 hour, six-day endeavor. For their 52 hour work week the women and young girls were paid about $7 to $12 a week.

The majority of people were immigrants, and girls as young as 14, were working nine hours a day, Monday through Friday and seven hours on Saturdays. Most of them were either Jewish or Italian and almost all spoke little or no English.

One hundred forty-six people died. The result was a massive outcry and the tragedy spurred legislation in New York state to improve the safety of those types of sweatshops. It also was instrumental in the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. But even with that example of horrific working conditions many employers and business groups fought the laws and the unions. They objected the most and were almost successful in killing a law that was called the factory inspection law. The law limited the work week for women to no more than 54 hours a week.

Minimum Wage: Minimum wage in America isn’t as old as you might think: the first federal minimum wage was first introduced by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1938. Minimum wage was set at 25 cents an hour, which works out to about $4 per hour in today’s money. The first federal minimum wage laws were passed in America in 1938. But prior to that, at least one state had passed its own minimum wage laws. Massachusetts passed minimum wage laws in 1912 (although they only covered women and children).

The 40 hour work week, estimated average weekly hours worked in manufacturing, was 60.1 hours in 1830 down to 60 hours by 1890.

Social Security: Alf Landon, the Kansas governor running as the Republican Party’s 1936 presidential candidate, called it a “fraud on the working man” and “a cruel hoax.” The New York Times, in an editorial, said it was “ill-considered” and “very questionable.” Harper Sibley, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, warned that it would result in “more unemployment in the future, killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

Edward F. Wagner

Clifton Park

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