FLSA sets the bar

Published: March 8, 2013

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 established a minimum wage paradigm, leaving alone its more heroic cousin of “poverty reduction.” The aim was to maintain “...a minimum standard of living ... without substantially curtailing employment.” It was never intended as a cure for poverty, as John H. Waller (Your Views, Feb. 24) implies. Poverty reduction calls for fiscal measures; the FLSA is a monetary tool targeting purchasing power. When the dividing line gets blurred, so does the dialogue.

When FLSA was tabled, its objectors predicted widespread labor attrition as market forces mobilized. So Waller is on a beaten path here. Fast forward to 2012. Empirical data from Tulsa, where hourly rates are well above the federal minimum, point to labor accretion rather than attrition. Indeed, a spokesperson for Walmart has said that the average pay for a full-time hourly employee is $10.31. It would seem that the law is only playing catch-up with this latest increase.

I doubt that at this time in our history the worth-of-the work theory can do a better job than FLSA. Once we get beyond the rhetoric, we realize that it was this kind of thinking that led to the workplace abuses that birthed FLSA. Today, Oklahoma has enlightened employers. FLSA merely sets the bar for the few who would like to continue calibrating “worth.”

Hart Tillett, Bethany


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