Wilson v. New 243 U.S. 332 (1917)

Author:David Gordon

Page 2912

Congress passed the ADAMSON EIGHT-HOUR ACT in 1916 to avert a threatened nationwide railroad strike and to prevent disruption of INTERSTATE COMMERCE. The act prescribed an eight-hour day for railway workers and prohibited any reduction in pay for the shorter hours. Congress thereby regulated wages (pending the report of a commission established by the act) as well as hours. A United States District Court enjoined enforcement of the act, and that decision was appealed to the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice EDWARD D. WHITE, for a 5?4 Supreme Court, sustained the act as a legitimate exercise of congressional power. Asserting that Congress's power to establish working hours was "so clearly sustained as to render the subject not disputable," White faced the issue: did the COMMERCE CLAUSE give Congress the power to set wages? Despite reservations about government interference with FREEDOM OF CONTRACT, the majority held that the Adamson Act only supplemented contracting parties' rights. Moreover, Congress might set a temporary wage standard to protect interstate commerce when private parties failed to exercise their contract rights. Although the...

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