Report No. 62
1A.8. Developments in the U.S.A.-
Workmen's compensation laws in the U.S.A. had their beginning in 1908, when the Federal Government passed an Act covering certain civil employees.1 State laws in the U.S.A. started in 1911, when Washington and Kansas both passed such laws on March 14; both laws, however, had a later effective date. The first State to put an Act into effect was Wisconsin, whose law was approved and became effective the same day-May 3, 1911. Seven other States passed laws in 1911, and from then onwards, there was rapid progress for several years.
In 1909, New York State and several other American States appointed commissions to study the problem. Pennsylvania followed suit in 1911. In 1915, Article III, section XXI of the Constitution of Pennsylvania was amended2 to permit such legislation. In the same year, Pennsylvania's first Workmen's Compensation Act was passed.3
In 1920, all but six States in the U.S.A. had such laws, and the Federal Act for civil employees had been re-enacted in 1916.4 It was not until 1948 that the last State passed such an Act, and, in the meantime, another. Federal law had been passed-the Longahoreman's and Harber Workers' Compensation Act-which was made applicable also, by a separate Act, to the District of Columbia.
As has been stated by an American writer5-
"Since the compulsory retirement of the horse in favour of steam power, industrial accidents have persistently nibbled away at the stability of our modern economy. These misfortunes impose upon us twin obligations. The first is to the injured workman. In justice we should alleviate the hardship of the labourer whose body is broken or destroyed in producing for our common well-being. The second obligation is to the stability of our economy. For the common good we must cushion the financial impact of such misfortunes on our industries."
1. U.S. Deptt. of Labour, State Workmen's Compensation Laws, Bulletin No. 161 (1968 revision), p. 1.
2. Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, PA, STAT, ANN, tit 771-1056 (Purdon 1952).
3. See John M. Melaughtin Double Standards in Workmen's Compensation in Pennaylvanin, (1957), 30 Temple L.Q. 294.
4. U.S. Deptt. of Labour, State Workmen's Compensation Laws, Bulletin No. 161, (1968 revision), p. 1.
5. John M. Melaughtin Double Standards in Workmen's Compensation in Pennaylvanin, (1957), 30 Temple L.Q. 294.