Frances Perkins was appointed to the State Industrial Commission in 1918 and named its chairman in 1926. It was only two years later, in 1929, that then governor Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted Perkins to be the Industrial Commissioner of New York, the chief post in the state labor department. She continued her efforts to expand factory investigations, reduce the work week to 48 hours for women, and facilitate minimum wage and unemployment insurance laws.
In 1933, President Roosevelt appointed Perkins as his Secretary of Labor, making her the first woman in the United States to hold a Cabinet position. She served longer than any other Secretary of Labor, from March 1933 to July 1945. As secretary, she played a key role in writing New Deal legislation. She immediately proposed federal aid to the states for direct unemployment relief, an extensive program of public works, an approach to the establishment by federal law of minimum wages and maximum hours; unemployment and old-age insurance, abolition of child labor, and the creation of a federal employment service. Because of her diligence and vision, the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act, 1935) was passed which gave workers the right to collective bargaining and created the National Labor Relations Board. A famous event, in which Perkins led thousands of steelworkers to a meeting place to negotiate their bargaining rights, was captured and circulated in a newspaper photo. Best described as a strong advocate for government intervention for the public good, Perkins’ involvement and persuasive ventures usually led to victory.
in 1934, while serving in the cabinet, she was made chairwoman of the President’s Committee on Economic Security. A report issued by that committee laid the basis for the Social Security Act. Although it was considered at the time to be a radical departure, the proposal was accepted with enthusiasm by Roosevelt. A petition in favor of the measure was signed by 20 million people. Her most important contribution as chairwoman resulted in the Social Security Act of 1935. When the Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938, Perkins had managed to persuade Congress to eliminate “labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standards of living necessary for health, efficiency and well-being of workers.” The law also established a minimum wage. On the other hand, Congressional conservatives were angered with Perkins when on one occasion she had refused to deport Harry Bridges, the head of the Westcoast Longshore Union.
Frances Perkins. (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2017, from https://aflcio.org/about/history/labor-history-people/frances-perkins
Frances Perkins. (2016, April 07). Retrieved June 15, 2017, from https://www.biography.com/people/frances-perkins-9437840