Director's Spotlight - September 2012
Labor Day: A Tribute to Missouri's Leadership in Worker Protection
A column by Larry Rebman, Missouri Labor Department Director
On June 28, 1894, the United States Congress designated the first Monday of each September as Labor Day. Labor Day was the creation of the labor movement and it is dedicated to honoring the social and economic achievements of the American worker. The very existence of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is the result of the contribution that the hardworking men and women of Missouri have made to our state and our country.
In Missouri, we have led the way in protecting workers throughout most of our history. In fact, the Missouri Department of Labor was created in 1879, nine years before the creation the U.S. Department of Labor in 1888.
In 1881, Missouri passed the first Mine Safety statute that required mine owners to provide a safe working environment for miners, created county mine inspectors and a legal action for the death of a miner due to violations of the mining act. It wasn’t until 1952, that the United States passed a law requiring inspectors to have access to mines and real mining safety regulations were not enacted until the 1960s.
In 1899, Missouri established the Missouri State Free Employment Service to take applications from employees looking for work and employers seeking employees. In 1933, Harry Truman was appointed the National Reemployment Service Director for Missouri under the U.S. Department of Labor. That same year, Congress enacted the Wagner-Peyser Act, establishing a joint federal-state workforce system that mirrored Missouri’s 34 year old system.
In 1901, Missouri created the Factory Inspection Unit and a wage law that required employees to be paid at least every 15 days. If employers paid after 20 days of the wages owed, they had to pay employees double their wages. Workers were owed double the wages when employers failed to make payments after five days. In 1907, Missouri passed a labor law prohibiting children under the age of 14 from working in factories or shops. The U.S. Government did not outlaw child labor until 1941.
In 1921, the Factory Inspection Unit became the Department of Industrial Inspection and was led by Ms. Alice Curtis Moyer-Wing. Ms. Moyer-Wing was the first woman appointed to the head of a state department. The entries in the Missouri Blue Book show that Ms. Moyer-Wing aggressively enforced the laws relating to safety, child labor, and food safety. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety act was not passed until 1970.
Today, the Missouri Department of Labor enforces state laws including those concerning child labor, overtime and minimum wage, prevailing wage, discrimination, occupational health, and mine safety, and administers the workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance programs. To celebrate this year’s Labor Day and to pay tribute to those who advocated for worker rights, we have created the Worker Protection Center at www.labor.mo.gov/workerprotection. The Worker Protection Center allows you to connect with our divisions online and take action to get the help you need such as report a safety hazard, file a wage complaint, report worker misclassification, file a discrimination complaint, and find out if your employer covers you with workers’ compensation.
This year, the Division of Employment Security staff processed hundreds of thousands of unemployment claims and paid over $604 million in unemployment compensation. The Division of Worker’s Compensation has processed more than 60,908 reported work injuries and referred 256 cases of fraud or noncompliance for prosecution against employers who did not comply with the workers’ compensation laws. The Division of Labor Standards has assisted in recovering more than $1,966,333.98 in unpaid wages. The Missouri Commission processed 838 charges of employment discrimination. The on-site safety consultants have identified and corrected 4,119 workplace hazards and the Mine safety unit has identified and corrected 1,263 hazards.
The working men and women of the Missouri Department of Labor are honored to be a part of the Missouri tradition that has paved the way for laws improving peoples’ lives and working conditions across our great nation. Everyday our work honors those who have improved and who continue to improve the lives and working conditions of all Americans. Have a safe and happy Labor Day.