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Arkansas Department of Labor (ADL)

The Arkansas Department of Labor (ADL), which arose as part of the Progressive movement in Arkansas, is the agency responsible for enforcing the state’s labor laws. Its mission is “to foster, promote, and develop the health, safety and welfare of the wage earners of Arkansas by providing services and enforcing laws to improve working conditions and enhance their opportunities for safe and profitable employment.”

Act 322 of 1913 created the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, which was to be headed by a governor-appointed commissioner, whose duty it was to “collect, assort, systematize and present biennial reports to the Governor, statistical details relating to all departments of labor in Arkansas and especially as affecting or bearing upon the commercial, social, education and sanitary conditions of the employees and their families.” The bureau was the result of intense lobbying on the part of the Arkansas State Federation of Labor and the State Farmers’ Union, which moved the legislature to enact a number of labor reforms, such as restrictions on child labor and a minimum wage for women. The bureau had the power to issue subpoenas and to enter any business or industry, though primarily for the purpose of gathering facts and statistics. It had no authority to deal with infractions of the law but rather was responsible for reporting violators to the district or county attorney. The bureau’s sole power was to issue fines against those employers who refused to provide statistical data.

Act 161 of 1937 ended the existence of the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and transferred its duties and responsibilities to the newly created Arkansas Department of Labor. In addition, the act gave the ADL the power, jurisdiction, and authority to enforce all labor laws in Arkansas, to carry out inspections and investigations, to propose rules “for the prevention of accidents or the prevention of industrial and occupational diseases in every employment or place of employment,” and to promote arbitration and mediation as a means of avoiding strikes and boycotts. The same act also created the state Industrial Board, the members of which were appointed by the governor and charged with making rules relating to work safety.

The ADL is divided into five major program areas: 1) Occupational Safety and Health, the largest, which provides consultation and training on workplace safety to private industry and enforces the state’s safety and health laws, 2) Labor Standards, which enforces wage and hour laws as well as providing conflict resolution services for small wage disputes, 3) Mediation Services, which provides conflict resolution services in collective bargaining situations, 4) Code Enforcement and Public Safety, which is responsible for inspecting and permitting boilers and elevators, as well as licensing electricians, and 5) Administrative Services, which oversees all the agency programs. The ADL also prints two quarterly periodicals, Labor News and Safety News.

For additional information:
Arkansas Department of Labor. http://www.state.ar.us/labor/ (accessed September 15, 2008).

“Federal Okeh Sought for Labor Set Up.” Arkansas Gazette. March 2, 1937, p. 3.

Staff of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated 1/24/2009

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