Child Labor Amendment

Author:Stanley I. Kutler

Page 349

Two years after BAILEY V. DREXEL FURNITURE CO. (1922) when for the second time the Supreme Court invalidated a federal child labor law, Congress approved a constitutional amendment empowering it to regulate on the subject. But from 1924 until 1938, the amendment languished in state legislatures, with only twenty-eight of the requisite thirty-six having ratified it by 1938.

Led by the National Association of Manufacturers, critics contended that the proposed amendment endangered traditional state powers and local control of PRODUCTION. The Granges also lobbied in agricultural states in the South and Midwest, arguing that such congressional power would threaten the use of children on family farms. Religious groups maintained that the amendment would lead to federal control of education and increase the costs of educating children. Newspapers overwhelmingly opposed the amendment on the grounds that they would be deprived of delivery boys.

The Court's decision in the WAGNER ACT CASES (1937) renewed interest in congressional legislation. The FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT in 1938 outlawed child labor, and in UNITED STATES V. DARBY (1941), the Court sustained the legislation and overturned its own precedents. The new law and the Darby decision combined to make the amendment unnecessary.

The lengthy ratification process prompted Congress to impose time limits on many subsequent amendments. The child labor amendment also raised a knotty constitutional problem when one state reversed its position...

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