This letter is an official statement from the Brooklyn Merchant Bakers Association to Representative Eugene Keogh of New York stating the organization’s opposition to H.R. 7200 and S. 2475—House and Senate versions of the bill that would eventually become the Fair Labor Standards Act. This act set a federal minimum wage, established a 40-hour work week and overtime standards, and enacted child labor laws. While under consideration, H.R. 7200 was sometimes called the Norton Hours and Wages Bill after House Labor Committee Chairperson Mary T. Norton of New Jersey, who led the effort to get the bill out of committee and to a vote on the House Floor.
The bakers association chiefly objected to the bill’s maximum work hours and overtime pay provisions, which would increase the cost of production and the price of baked goods for consumers. Many retail bakers believed this would impede local bakeries’ ability to compete with cheaper goods from nearby states and Canada. A master baker who testified during joint hearings of the House Committee on Labor and the Senate Committee on Education and Labor in 1937 expressed concern that artisan bakers could no longer compete with machine-based operations.
Retail bakeries were one of many industries that appealed to Congress to reject the act or to ask for an exception to its provisions. Some of the lobbying was successful. The Fair Labor Standards Act became law on June 25, 1938, and businesses engaged in intrastate commerce, like some retail bakeries, were exempt from minimum wage and maximum hours requirements, but only if most of their product was sold in state. Given the scope of such exemptions, the final legislation initially impacted about one-fifth of the nation’s workforce.