Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in History


Arch Dalrymple III Department of History

First Advisor

Jessica Wilkerson

Second Advisor

Rebecca Marchiel

Third Advisor

Jarod H. Roll

Relational Format



This thesis traces the conceptualization of work from the passage of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) through the Portal-To-Portal Pay Act of 1947. I argue that the FLSA created a new framework for industrial laborers to define what constituted work. This enables an understanding of work as defined by those in mines and on the industrial plants floor, allowing those who were closest to toil and exertion to create their own definitions. By 1946, Congress heeded to the complaints of the military and capitalists and codified their definition of work and the work week. This restricted the broadly interpreted FLSA. I argue that with the implementation of the FLSA, industrial workers created projected their own definitions of work onto the law. As the FLSA was defined though the court system, industrial workers gained formal rights through the federal government. To show this, I look at “non-productive” labor, understood as the necessary steps taken by workers before they began or after they concluded “face-to-labor,” to ensure they could fulfill their job’s requirements. This includes but is not limited to exertion such as travel time, tool set up, dressing and showers after contact with hazardous materials. I also show that organized labor did create a uniform definition of work but was instead determined by union federations. Additionally, this research shows how capitalists and the federal government defined labor during this same time period.

Included in

History Commons



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