Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal
One of the most enduring parts of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, the Social Security Act provides assistance to retirees, the unemployed, widows, and orphans. By signing this act, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to advocate for federal assistance for the elderly. It was largely opposed by Republican legislators.
The Social Security Act of 1935 Pub.L. 74 271, 49 Stat. 620, now codified as 42 U.S.C. ch. 7, created Social Security in the United States, and is relevant for US labor law. It created a basic right to a pension in old age, and insurance against unemployment.
In the Second New Deal, the Social Security Act was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. The act laid the groundwork for the modern welfare system in the United States, with its primary focus to provide aid for the elderly, the unemployed, and children. Industrialization and the urbanization in the 19th Century created many new social problems, and transformed ideas of how society and the government should function together because of them. As industry expanded, cities grew quickly to keep up with demand for labor. Tenement houses were built quickly and poorly, cramming new migrants from farms and Southern and Eastern European immigrants into tight and unhealthy spaces. Work spaces were even more unsafe. In 1890, Jacob Riis wrote that the quick change of economic conditions in the city often out paces all plans of relief.
Amendments of 1939: The original Act provided only retirement benefits, and only to the worker. The 1939 Amendments made a fundamental change in the Social Security program. The Amendments added two new categories of benefits: payments to the spouse and minor children of a retired worker (called dependents benefits) and survivors benefits paid to the family in the event of the premature death of the worker. The 1939 Amendments also increased benefit amounts and accelerated the start of monthly benefit payments from 1942 to 1940.
In the 1930s, the Supreme Court struck down many pieces of Roosevelt's New Deal legislation, including the Railroad Retirement Act. The Court threw out a centerpiece of the New Deal, the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, and New York State's minimum-wage law. President Roosevelt responded with an attempt to pack the court via the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937. On February 5, 1937, he sent a special message to Congress proposing legislation granting the President new powers to add additional judges to all federal courts whenever there were sitting judges age 70 or older who refused to retire. The practical effect of this proposal was that the President would get to appoint six new Justices to the Supreme Court (and 44 judges to lower federal courts), thus instantly tipping the political balance on the Court dramatically in his favor. The debate on this proposal lasted over six months. Beginning with a set of decisions in March, April, and May 1937 (including the Social Security Act cases), the Court would sustain a series of New Deal legislation Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes played a leading role in defeating the court-packing by rushing these pieces of New Deal legislation through and ensuring that the court's majority would uphold it