Thursday, July 16, 2015

Walker's 1900 era labor standards next....

Scott Walker's budget ushered in a 7 day work week, doing away with required "one day of rest." 

Oddly, Republicans continue to pretend employers would never threaten current employees with the loss of their job if they didn't "volunteer;" they could always bringing someone who will, right?:
Seven-day workweeks would be allowed and provisions for a "living wage" would be struck from state statutes, nullifying a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin workers aimed at pressuring Gov. Scott Walker to raise the minimum wage, under last-minute additions to the state budget ... allow factory and retail employees to work seven days without a day off, as long as they said in writing that they were doing so voluntarily.
Radio host and author Thom Hartmann doesn't appear to be aware of the 7 day work week law, or he would have added that to the story below about Scott Walker's speech announcing his run for president. Walker referenced a way of thinking that goes all the way back to the early 1900's. No surprise there:
If you want to catch a glimpse of what America would look like under President Scott Walker, you need to turn back the clock to one of the darkest periods in 20th century American history – the Lochner Era.

A bakery owner named Joseph Lochner sued the state of New York over its Bakeshop Act, which limited the number of hours bakery employees could work to 10 hours a day and 60 hours a week. Lochner … took it to the Supreme Court in 1905, he got the result he wanted. In a close 5 to 4 decision, the justices struck down the Bakeshop Act, citing Lochner’s right under the 14th Amendment to run his business without “state interference.” Apparently, the Bakeshop Act violated that most fundamental of liberties -- the right of employers to work their employees to death.

Until the mid-1930s, the Supreme Court would go on all-out rampage against workers’ rights … it struck down, among other things, child labor laws, minimum wage laws, and laws banning “yellow dog contracts” - contracts that forced workers to say that they wouldn’t join a union. 

The guiding principle in most or all of these decisions was the idea that the government’s power to protect workers was limited to protecting their “health and safety” … things like minimum wage laws were struck down because they went beyond protecting "health and safety..."
There is, by the way, no “right to contract” in the Constitution. The Supreme Court made it up, just like it made up corporate personhood and money as speech. Everyone serious thinks the Lochner case was a big mistake. Everyone that is, except for Scott Walker.

As Ian Milhiser has pointed out in a great piece for ThinkProgress, buried deep in Scott Walker’s speech announcing his run for president was a shout-out to the “health and safety” thinking of the Lochner era. He said, "As long as you don’t violate the health and safety of your neighbors – go out and start your own career, build your own business, live your own life.” Sounds harmless enough, right? 

It does, until you remember that this line of thinking was used to strike down child labor laws, minimum wage laws, and basically any kind of law that kept workers from becoming wage slaves.

6 comments:

rockribbed rushy said...

According to this link on PBS:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/capitalism/landmark_lochner.html

Lochner was fined $50 under an existing law:
"In 1897, the state of New York passed the Bakeshop Act -- a so-called "labor law" -- one section of which provided that "no employee shall be ... permitted to work in a biscuit, bread, or cake bakery or confectionery establishment more than sixty hours in any one week." Joseph Lochner, who owned Lochner's Home Bakery in Utica, was fined $50 for allowing an employee to work more than 60 hours in a week. Lochner was sentenced to incarceration in a county jail until he paid the fine or, if he didn't pay, for 50 days. Lochner appealed his conviction up to the New York Court of Appeals (New York State's highest court), which affirmed his sentence. Claiming the labor law was unconstitutional, Lochner appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court."

"The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Rufus Peckham, held that the act was unconstitutional and that the conviction of Lochner must be reversed. The Court construed the law as an absolute interference "with the right of contract between the employer and employees," then declared that "the general right to make a contract in relation to his business is part of the liberty of the individual protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution." The Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause prohibits states from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. To the Court, the right to buy and sell labor through contract was a "liberty of the individual" protected under the amendment."

"The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Rufus Peckham, held that the act was unconstitutional and that the conviction of Lochner must be reversed. The Court construed the law as an absolute interference "with the right of contract between the employer and employees," then declared that "the general right to make a contract in relation to his business is part of the liberty of the individual protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution." The Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause prohibits states from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. To the Court, the right to buy and sell labor through contract was a "liberty of the individual" protected under the amendment."

Just thought you should know the facts of the case. Obama should know as well.




Democurmudgeon said...

I hope you read the article, and understand how ridiculous that ruling was. The same will be said of flip flopper Scalia.

rockribbed rushy said...

Which ruling are you talking about? The New York ruling or the Supreme Court ruling?
And why should the employer go to jail or pay a fine if an employee wants to work?
Before I became salaried, I worked all the overtime I could.
More money for me and more things I got to do.
I was 35 years in mfg'ing, retired now, but every job lead to a better one and more money. I worked with too many that wanted only to work the minimum, thank you very much.
Believe me, no one wants to hire a one-trick pony.

Democurmudgeon said...

I also worked in manufacturing and worked overtime a lot. I'm sure it's more complicated than that old case long before labor laws were enacted. The idea that the new 7 day work week may give employers an excuse to practically force workers who don't want to work overtime is the issue ignored by Walker.

rockribbed rushy said...

Some companies already have mandatory overtime and many are in unions.
The idea that the State can insert itself between an employee and an employer is going to far.
Companies that abuse their employees get a reputation for that. You will always hear of companies that have high turnover rates. That is why some companies rarely lose people.
You are not bound to your employer. You can always leave. We are not subjects, we are free agents. There is always someone willing to pay you what you are worth.
I will read the law, but I don't think it's as bad as you think it is.
The Founders were students of the Enlightenment and did not believe in mandatory anything.
One of the things they believed was that your labor was your own and you could enter into any agreement with anyone else for whatever price you could get.
He just signed this bill. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt and see how the actual application of the law goes?

Democurmudgeon said...

I don't want to rephrase what Thom Hartmann wrote above.

"Not bound" and "you can always leave" are the very things I asked anti-union politicians who passed RTW and ACT 10. It seems the same reasons your giving me don't work for people applying for jobs at union businesses. Work that out and get back to me.

We have labor laws so people who don't know about those bad companies aren't suddenly surprised after moving across the country, or simply giving up their safety nets for a lousy job.

You're pushing chaos packaged in feel good words like "freedom."