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Records Relating to Department of Labor and Tra... | State Archives Catalog

In 1935 the Department of Labor was established by statutory authority in PL 1935, chapter 2250, Section 90. Upon creation, the department assumed the responsibilities of the former Commissioner of Labor and the Superintendent of Industrial Statistics existing before that title. This statute also abolished the Census Board whereupon the Director of Labor assumed all responsibilities and functions relating to conducting the decennial census and keeping statistics.  The last census was taken in 1935/6 and the statute was repealed completely in 1985. The department gradually evolved over the following decades to include a variety of divisions, boards, and advisory councils related to all fields of labor. In 1996 PL 226 renamed the department as the Department of Labor and Training (RIGL §42.16.1)

The Department began with three divisions, the Division of Labor Relations, the Division of Industrial Inspection, and the Division of Personnel (Census and Statistics).  In 1936 the Division of Women and Children was created under the Department per Chapter 2289 of the Public Laws of 1936.

The Division of Women and Children administered the regulations affecting the employment of women and minors:  The Minimum Wage Law, the Forty-Eight Hour Law, the Industrial Homework Law and the Child Labor Regulations.  The Division also acted as a clearinghouse for requests for information regarding the federal law, supervised the issuance of minor work permits by school departments throughout the state and processed complaints received regarding the enforcement of the Federal law (Fair Labor Standards Act, 1938).  The passage of RI Equal Pay Law in 1946 abolished wage differentials based on sex and Chapter 3420 established the state minimum wage in 1955. The division was renamed the Division of Labor Standards in 1973 (Chapter 250, 73-S-986)

Abbreviated Timeline:

1865: First RI state census is legislated and taken.

1887: Creation of the Commissioner of Industrial Statistics.

1919: Commissioner of Industrial Statistics renamed Commissioner of Labor, State Board of Labor established.

1935: Creation of the Department of Labor, headed by Director of Labor.

1941: Labor Relations Board is formed.

1943: Curative Centre Fund established.

1955: Director of Labor granted power to assign wages.

1961: John E. Donley Rehabilitation Center established, replacing former Curative Centre

1978: Department of Labor removes its Division of Statistics and Census

1985: Division of workmen’s compensation, including the John E. Donley Rehabilitation

Center, transferred to the newly established Department of Workmen’s Compensation

Extended Timeline:

1865: The first RI state census is taken and legislated

-PL 1865, chapter 577

-“Sec. 1, There shall be taken in several cities and towns in the year 1865, and every tenth year thereafter, a census of the inhabitants and voters.”

-“Sec. 2, The census shall be taken in cities by agents appointed by the board of aldermen…the board of aldermen and assessors shall, on or before the first day of July of the same year, deposit the returns in the office of the Secretary of State.”

1875: Superintendent of the Census and Census Board established to conduct the census

-PL 1875, chapter 449: An Act to provide for taking a decennial census of the state of Rhode Island

-“Sec. 3, The governor shall appoint a ‘Superintendent of the Census’ who, together with the governor and the secretary of state, shall constitute the ‘Census Board’ which shall have the charge of taking the census”

-“Sec. 4, The Superintendent of the Census, acting under the advice of the census board, shall prepare and print all the necessary blanks for taking the census…the superintendent of the census shall also superintend the taking of the census, and receive the returns when completed…present to the general assembly a report upon the census, showing the information obtained and its application to the promotion of the interests of the State.”

1887: Creation of the Commissioner of Industrial Statistics, assumes responsibilities of the former Superintendent of the Census

-PL 1887, chapter 621

-Creates the office of Commissioner of Industrial Statistics.

-Appointed by the Governor with advice and consent from the senate for a two-year term.

-Duties of the Superintendent of the census transferred to Commissioner of Industrial Statistics.

-“[The Superintendent of the Census] must collect, arrange, tabulate and publish statistical details in relation to the conditions of labor and business in all mechanical, manufacturing, commercial and other industrials business of the state…”

1919: Creation of the Commissioner of Labor, formerly the Commissioner of Industrial Statistics, and State Board of Labor

-PL 1919, chapter 1741: An Act to create a commissioner of labor.

-“…at the time of the passage of this act shall be thereafter know and described as the Commissioner of Labor and shall be vested with all the powers and authority and subject to all the duties and liabilities now vested and imposed upon the Commissioner of Industrial Statistics.”

-Establishes State Board of Labor.

-5 Members: the Commissioner of Labor, two representatives of employers of the state, and two representatives of the laborers of the state.

-“The Commissioner of Labor shall report to the Board of Labor at each of its monthly meetings such matter relating to the interests of labor…The board shall report to the general assembly at its January session and present in such a report any recommendations it may deem advisable in regard to the administration of such laws, and suggest any changes or amendments to such laws as it may deem desirable.”

1925: Deputy Commissioner of Labor title established under statutory authority

-PL 1925, chapter 626: An Act in amendment of Section 5 of Chapter 87 of the general laws, entitled “Of the Commissioner of Labor and of the State Board of Labor.”

-“There shall be a Deputy Commissioner of Labor…shall act as agent to the Labor Commissioner in the conduct of investigations of labor conditions, ordered by the Labor Commissioner and shall perform such duties as said labor commissioner may direct. He shall act as secretary to the State Board of Labor as provided by the following section. He shall, under the direction of the State Board of Labor, aid and assist any board of mediation and conciliation appointed by said board of labor.

1935: Creation of the Department of Labor under statutory authority

-PL 1935, chapter 2250, section 90: Administrative Code Act, an Act relating to the civil administration of the state government and amending or repealing certain general and public laws.

-Headed by director of labor, formerly the commissioner of labor.

-Must name an arbitrator, as required by law (chapter 94, section 9 of the general laws)

-Responsible for conducting the state census

“The census board appointed under authority of said chapter 86 of the general laws is hereby abolished and the director of labor shall perform all functions heretofore performed by the Census Board…”

-Establishes three divisions: Division of Labor Relationships, Division of Industrial Inspection and Division of Personnel.

1. Division of labor relationships with appointed chief

-Responsible for the enforcement of the workmen’s compensation act and other duties as prescribed by the director of labor

2. Division of industrial inspection with appointed chief and inspectors

-Responsible for powers and duties formerly delegated to factory inspectors and steam boiler inspectors, and any duties deemed necessary by the director of labor

3. Division of personnel with appointed chief

-“Shall exercise powers and duties as conferred upon it by the general assembly.”

  -Establishes Bureau of Firemen’s Relief

  -Responsible for administering the fund for the relief of firemen

1935 Department of Labor responsible for establishing a national employment system as

mandated by the Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933, creates Division of State Employment Service

-PL 1935, chapter 2266: An Act creating a state system of public employment offices.

-“Sec 3. There is hereby created within the Department of Labor a division to be known as the Division of State Employment Service responsible for administering a system of public employment offices for the purpose of assisting employers to secure employees and workers to secure employment…having powers or duties under such act and to do and perform all things necessary to secure to the state of Rhode Island the benefits of such act in the promotion and maintenance of a system of public employment offices.”

1936: Department of Labor creates Division of Women and Children.

-PL 1936, chapter 2289: An act to establish minimum fair wage standards for women and minors.

-“Sec.4, There is hereby created in the Department of Labor a division to be known as the Division of Women and Children whose duty it shall be to carry out the provisions of this act, to administer the labor laws of this state concerning women and children and in general to be responsible for the welfare of women and children employed in industry in this state.”

-Division stood to protect women and minors from unfair wages bestowed upon them through the creation of wage boards. Said boards served to combine representatives from employees, employers, and the public to negotiate fair wages for women and children.

1936: Division of Unemployment Compensation, Unemployment Compensation Board created within Department of Labo

-PL 1936, chapter 2333: An act relating to unemployment compensation

-“Sec.10, There is hereby created in the Department of Labor the Division of Unemployment Compensation to be composed of three qualified electors of the state to be known as the Unemployment Compensation Board of Rhode Island.”

“The Unemployment Compensation Board at its discretion shall recommend to the governor for transmission to the general assembly such actions as will tend to aid and promote the prevention of unemployment and as will affect the regularization of employment

-3 Members:

One representative of labor

One representative of industry

One representative of the public

1936: Bureau of Relief for Policemen (under Division of Industrial Inspection with Bureau of Firemen’s Relief)

-GL 45-19-2

-Board consists of five members who administer the fund for the relief of widows and/or dependents of policemen who die from injuries received from their duties

1939: Bureau of Industrial Inspection changed to Division of Industrial Inspection and

Miscellaneous Regulations with State Sealer of Weights and Measures under its jurisdiction, Unemployment Compensation Board becomes the Division of Workmen’s Compensation with relief bureau’s under its jurisdiction; adds Division of Census and Statistics and Advisory Council on Coal and Coke.

1941: Labor Relations Board is formed.

-PL 1941, chapter 1066: An Act establishing a Rhode Island state Labor Relations Board to promote equality of bargaining power between employer and employee and to diminish the causes of industrial disputes by encouraging collective bargaining.

-Consists of seven (7) members:

Three (3) members to be representatives of the state.

Three (3) members to be representatives of management.

One (1) member to be representative of the public.

-Aims to deter the disparity between production and consumption, business depressions, unemployment and its attendant dangers, and the need for public and private expenditures for the relief of the unemployed and needy that are a direct result of poor negotiations between employer and employee.

-“…it is hereby declared to be public policy of the state to encourage the practice and procedure of collective bargaining, and to protect employees in the exercise of full freedom of association, self-organization and designation of representatives of their own choosing for the purposes of collective bargaining, or other mutual aid and protection, free from the interference, restraint or coercion of their employers.”

1941: Department of Labor creates a Mercantile Division.

1942: Department of Labor adds a Board of Examiners of Electricians to its Division of Industrial Inspection.

-PL 1942, chapter 1234: An Act creating a state board of examiners of electricians and defining its powers and duties.

-“Sec. 5, The State Board of Examiners of Electricians may make necessary rules for the proper performance of their duties. They shall hold examinations in Providence twice in each year and at other convenient places within the state at the discretion of the board. Public notice shall be given of all examinations. In the conduct of the examinations they shall make the uniform requirement for all cities and towns, which may be revised from time to time, as circumstances require. Said examinations shall be sufficiently frequent to give ample opportunity for all applicants to be thoroughly and carefully examined, may be written and/or in practical work, and may be supervised by one or more of the examiners, but no license shall be granted except by said board.”

-Board consists of five (5) qualified electors of the state:

Member of electrical inspection department of any city or town with 5-years experience, to represent the general public.

Qualified electrical contractor, to represent employers.

Journeyman electrician, to represent laborers.

Supt. of the state police, who shall be ex officio.

Qualified employee of any electric utility company, to represent said companies.

1943: Curative Centre Fund established.

-PL 1943, chapter 1362 (further amendment to the Worker’s Compensation Act)

-“There is hereby established in the Treasury Department of the State of Rhode Island a special fund to be known as the Curative Centre Fund….such fund will be administered by the Director of Labor.”

-Centre supplies medical care for state employees

-Curative Centre fund provides:

A suitable structure to house the centre.

The furnishing of said building with necessary equipment.

The employment of employee’s salaries.

Money to pay all other necessary expenses for carrying out the above three provisions.

1946: Industrial Code Commission added to the Department of Labor.

-PL 1946, chapter 1785: An act to create in the Department of Labor an Industrial Code Commission...”

-“There is hereby created within the Department of Labor an Industrial Code Commission for Safety and Health…the Industrial Code Commission shall have the power to make, amend, ad repeal codes for the prevention of accidents or occupational diseases in every employment or place of employment.”

-Commission verified the safety of work places and generated reports, to be approved by the Director of Labor, in order to ensure workplace safety.

1955: Director of Labor granted power to assign wages

-PL 1955, chapter 3588

-“The director [of labor] shall have power and authority to take assignments of wage claims, rights of action for penalties provided by section 8 of this act, without being bound by any of the technical rules with reference to the validity of such assignments.”

1961: John E. Donley Rehabilitation Center established, replacing former Curative Centre

-GL 28-38-19: Establishment

-“From the fund created by S 28-27-1 (worker’s compensation administrative account) the Dr. John E. Donley Rehabilitation Center shall be set up within the Department of Labor and Training.”

-Provides medical treatment to any state employee receiving worker’s compensation benefits.

-Takes over duties of former Curative Centre.

1972: Division of Industrial Inspection removed from the Department of Labor

1973: Division of Labor Standards replaces Division of Women and Children. Adds

Division of Occupational Safety (assumes responsibilities of the former Division of Industrial Inspection) and Code Commission for Occupational Safety and Health.

1973: Permanent Advisory Commission on Women established

-Resolution No.75, January Session, 1973

-ACW established to ensure and oversee opportunities for education and training for women, measures to strengthen family life through programs and services, policies and practices in public and private employment and development of employment opportunities for women, labor laws providing for social insurance, citizens and volunteers and legal rights of women.

1978: Department of Labor removes its Division of Statistics and Census

1983: Department of Labor establishes Bureau of Pipe-Fitters and Refridgeration  Technicians.

  -GL 28-27-1

  -Bureau oversees the licensing of laborers in the pipefitting or refrigeration crafts

1985: Division of workmen’s compensation, including the John E. Donley Rehabilitation

Center, transferred to the newly established Department of Workmen’s Compensation

-PL 1985, chapter 365: An Act Related to Worker’s Compensation.

-“A new Department of Worker’s Compensation which shall be responsible for all matters relating to worker’s compensation which previously were handled by the Department of Labor, Division of Worker’s Compensation…”

-Aims to supervise and control the enforcement of the Worker’s Compensation Act.

1985: Department of Labor adds division of professional regulation.

-PL 1985, chapter 181, article 47: An Act making appropriations for the support of the state for the fiscal year ending June 1986.

-“Within the Department of Labor there shall be a Division of Professional Regulation…the Division of Professional Regulation shall examine and license hoisting operating engineers of steam, gasoline, diesel, electric and compressed air powered machinery.”

1985: State Census is repealed

-PL 1985, chapt.181: An act making appropriations for the support of the state for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1986

-“Chapter 42-25 of the General Laws entitled “State Census” is hereby repealed in its entirety.”

1989: Department of Labor adds two new commissions: The Commission on the Deaf

and Hearing Impaired (GL 23-1.8-1) and the Permanent Commission on Hazardous Substances in the Workplace.

1992: RI Department of Employment Security becomes Department of Employment and Training

-PL 1992, chapt.133, article 68

-“Whenever in any General or Public Laws, the words ‘Department of Employment Security’ shall appear, the same shall be deemed to refer to and mean the ‘Department of Employment and Training.’”

1996: Department of Labor becomes Department of Labor and Training, merges with Department of Employment and Training

-PL 1996, chapt.226: An act relating to Labor and Labor Relations

-“There are hereby transferred to the Department of Labor and Training all functions formerly administered by the Department of Employment and Training…and of all other General Laws and Public Laws heretofore carried out by the existing Director of Employment and Training and the department [thereof]…”

-DLT responsible for organizing employment training programs in the state

General Laws, Department of Labor:

RIGL 1896, Chapt. 70

RIGL 1909, Chapt. 80

RIGL 1923, Chapt. 87

RIGL 1938, Chapt. 281

RIGL 1956, Chapt. 28-1-1

Variant forms of the agency name:

Commissioner of Industrial Statistics, 1887

Commissioner of Labor and State Board of Labor, 1919

Department of Labor,  1935

Functions including changes over time, Director of Labor:

PL 1901, Chapt. 809, Sec. 13; PL 191, Chapt. 1741; PL 1922, Chapt. 2160; PL 1929, Chapt. 1362; PL 1935, Chapt. 2250; PL 1939, Chapt. 660

Related Resource:

Department of Labor and Training

Subgroups under Department of Labor and Training



Records filed under "Department of Labor and Training"




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