There hasn’t always been a minimum-wage law to protect unskilled or semiskilled workers.
Until the 1930s, individual wages were determined largely by employers. Workers had to accept whatever compensation was offered or simply remain unemployed. This didn’t necessarily mean all employers of that time paid extremely low wages, but the laws of supply and demand often led to the most desperate workers accepting low bids. Industrialists such as Henry Ford routinely offered higher wages to skilled or trainable workers, but the working conditions could be brutal and the workday lasted 12 hours or more.
Organized labor unions, along with the Democratic politicians who supported them, began to demand a standardized minimum wage for all workers.
In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed the first federal minimum wage under his National Recovery Act, one of many laws he pushed through Congress to help the country drag itself out of the Great Depression. Read the entire article here.