Legislation

Beginning in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created a series of programs designed to pull the United States out of the economic disaster of the Great Depression. Together, these programs were called the New Deal, a name that comes from a campaign promise Roosevelt made: he pledged to give “a new deal for the American people”. The New Deal programs were made up of three parts: relief, recovery and reform. The relief programs were created to give jobs and funding to Americans who were in severe poverty, and solve the most immediate and critical problems of the Depression. The recovery programs were created to raise the economy to normal levels. The reform programs were intended to be a long-term solution. They were a way for the government to help stabilize the economy and insure that there would never again be a Great Depression in the U.S.

As part of the reform process of the New Deal, President Roosevelt wanted to raise the minimum wage and ensure a fair number of work hours per week. On June 28, 1938, Roosevelt signed into law the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, establishing a minimum wage of twenty-five cents an hour as well as setting the normal work week at 40 hours. This law threatened to disrupt the livelihood of home workers, like the tobacco bag stringers, whose activities were largely unregulated. Because tobacco bag stringers were paid based on how many bags they prepared rather than how many hours they worked, it was difficult to establish whether or not the bag stringers were receiving an hourly wage that met the new federal standards. With the rate of pay at around fifty cents for a thousand bags, it would be nearly impossible for tobacco bag stringers to earn enough to satisfy the requirements of the new law.

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"Legislation." Tobacco Bag Stringing. 2006. University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. date accessed <http://www.lib.unc.edu/instruct/tobacco/story/legislation.html>.