Today in labor history: Massachusetts establishes first minimum wage

One hundred years ago on this day, the state of Massachusetts became the first in the country to pass a minimum wage law. Though it initially only covered women and children, it paved the way for similar efforts to establish fairness in the workplace. It happened on June 4, 1912, when the commonwealth issued a report that read, “Whenever wages are less than the cost of living and the reasonable provision for maintaining the worker in health, the industry employing her is in receipt of the working energy of a human being at less than its cost, and to that extent is parasitic.”

Much later, in 1938, the country would get a federal minimum wage law under the Fair Labor Standards Act. But this initial law was still a powerful move.

According to Think Progress, the minimum wage “hit its peak in terms of buying power in 1968.” An ideal, fair minimum wage today would be somewhere around $9.92, and if it had been indexed to the Consumer Price Index since 1968, it would be approximately $10.40 today.



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