Francis Perkins Inspires Us All (Women’s History Month)

March 30, 2021

Video Transcript

Hello and welcome back to Legal Tip Tuesday. Vince Quatrini with you. During the month of March, where we celebrate Women’s History Month and we’re especially proud to talk about a woman today that set a record many years ago.

Did you know that a woman holds the record for serving the longest term as secretary of labor and that that record was set nearly 90 years ago? Francis Perkins was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve as secretary of labor in 1933 and she held that position until 1945. Twelve years. An amazing stretch of time, but more amazing is what Frances Perkins did during those 12 years. Let’s go through some of her achievements that are legendary.

Now mind you, she’s working with Franklin Roosevelt, who was one of the most important figures in our history and together they created the social security act, which many of us benefit from. She was instrumental in setting up what was called the Civilian Conservation Corps., where individuals during the depression young men would go off to a location and work building perhaps a bridge or a new tunnel and those individuals would send home a portion of their paycheck each week to support their family.

The Public Works Administration, where individuals were hired to create some of the most astounding pieces of architecture around our country. Google it. You’ll be really intrigued by it. How about the fact that she helped create Unemployment Compensation? Something again, that is so integral to the financial security of individuals in this country. Child labor laws were initiated under Francis Perkins. The first minimum wage, again, has the name Francis Perkins attached to it. And for all of us and the worker in a factory, 40-hour work week was something that was achieved under Francis Perkins and Franklin D Roosevelt. So, after 40 hours because of her, you are entitled to overtime.

There’s yet another incredible chapter to the life of Francis Perkins. In 1911, Francis Perkins was standing on a sidewalk right after a lunch and she looked up, across the street was a fire blazing in the Triangle Factory building. It was a building where women made shirts. It was called the “Triangle Shirt Waste factory” and the fire started on the eighth and the ninth floors. And so to get out they had to use the fire escapes. Sadly, the owners of the building had locked the fire escapes so that the women wouldn’t steal things from them. As a result, 146 people died in that fire. Most of them women and young girls.

Oh, they got an award, by the way, the families did for each of those lives. You know what it was? Forty dollars. Forty dollars for the cost of a life. But, with Francis Perkins standing on the corner and watching this tragedy unfold, it inspired her to help develop Workers Compensation laws. There were none before then. There were no rules of what you could do or couldn’t do on the 8th and 9th and 10th floor of a building. After that, the New York State created its workers compensation law and shortly thereafter in 1915 Pennsylvania created its first workers compensation act.

So, we honor Francis Perkins today and all of the women in our American history who have made an incredible difference. But, I’d like to leave you with another legal tip as we part, and it’s the fact that there’s a dark side to human nature, unfortunately, and it’s that profit is more important than safety, that’s my point. And as a result, we need laws we need Workers Compensation laws to protect you and me from profit over safety. That’s the only effective way to control what otherwise is a dark way of doing business. So, keep that in mind when you look at the Workers Comp law and what it’s done for everyone.

So, thanks for listening to this Legal Tip Tuesday and honoring a woman that I have enjoyed reading about and learning from for many years, Francis Perkins. Have a great day!