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Keating-Owen Act & Muller vs. Oregon

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Nadine Omeis

on 4 November 2014

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Transcript of Keating-Owen Act & Muller vs. Oregon

Background info.
Although the Keating-Owen Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional in Hammer v. Dagenhart 247 U.S. 251 (1918) because it overstepped the purpose of the government's powers to regulate interstate commerce. In its opinion the Court delineated between the Congress's power to regulate production and commerce.

A second child labor bill was passed in December of 1918 as part of the Revenue Act of 1919 (also called the Child Labor Tax Law). It also took an indirect route to regulate child labor, this time by using the government's power to levy taxes. It too, was soon found to be unconstitutional in Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Company259 U.S. 20 (1922). The Court reasoned that “The power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce does not extend to curbing the power of the states to regulate local trade.”

What was the problem?
How was the problem handled?
A group of reformers founded the National Labor Committee in 1904.
Their goal was to collect evidence to document the conditions faced by these young workers. They hired investigators, such as Lewis Hine, to gather this information. Hine interviewed and photographed countless young child laborers around the country. He often had to hide his camera and even sneak into the work places to get his shots. The photographic evidence as well as his interviews brought much attention to the overwhelming facts of this very real problem. Hine’s photographs and interviews were used to enlighten Congress to the fact that legislation needed to be introduced to ban the unsafe child labor practices.

The Secretary of Labor assigned inspectors to perform inspections in workplaces that produce goods for commerce. These inspectors would have the authority to make unannounced visits and would be given full access to the facility in question. Anyone found in violation of this Act or who makes false statements or produces false evidence would be subject to fine and/or imprisonment.
Who was involved?
Social reformers began to condemn child labor because of its detrimental effect on the health and welfare of children. Among those helping to incite public opinion against it were Karl Marx and Charles Dickens, who had worked at a factory himself at age 12.

One of the most effective attacks came from Dickens's novel Oliver Twist, which was widely read in Britain and the United States. Dickens’s masterwork portrays an orphan boy, raised in poorhouses and workhouses and by street criminals in industrialized London in the 1850s.

The first child labor bill, the Keating-Owen bill of 1916, was based on Senator Albert J. Beveridge's proposal from 1906 and used the government's ability to regulate interstate commerce to regulate child labor.
The 1890 census revealed that more than one million children, ten to fifteen years old, worked in America. That number increased to two million by 1910.

Industries employed children as young as five or six to work for as many as eighteen to twenty hours a day. This issue of child labor had become a concern to many Progressive reformers.

Keating-Owen Act & Muller vs. Oregon
Keating-Owen Act (Wick’s Bill) of 1916:
As stated on the official document:
“To prevent interstate commerce in the products of child labor and for other purposes”

Enacted by the U.S Congress that limited the working hours of children and forbid the interstate sale of goods produced by any factory, shop, or cannery that employed children under fourteen, from any mine that employed children under the age of sixteen, and from any facility where children under sixteen worked at night, for more than eight hours during the day, and no more than six days a week.
What were the negative outcomes?

Congress had hoped the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act could achieve their objective to rid the industrial market of immoral child labor practices, but it unfortunately failed.

The Supreme Court ruled in Hammer vs. Dagenhart that the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act was unconstitutional in 1918. They found that Congress could not regulate interstate commerce above the states’ right to regulate local trade as stated in the 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This was a big blow to Congress, the Progressive reformers and Lewis Hine. They all had worked very hard to bring an end to an appalling American reality.
What was accomplished?

They would all have to wait to finally see real regulation of child labor practices in the U.S. until the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. This Act successfully survived through Supreme Court challenges and even led to the reversal of Hammer vs. Dagenhart in 1941. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 is still law today.

Muller Vs. Oregon
This case took place in the state of Oregon 1908.
Hans Curt Muller, the owner of the Grant Laundry, pushed Emma Gotcher, unionist and wife of a leader of the Shirtwaist and Laundry workers’ union, to work more than 10 hours.

A local judge fined Muller, who wanted to go to a higher court for a different decision, therefore creating a path to the Supreme Court.

Muller’s attorney was William Fenton, and Oregon’s attorney was Louis D. Brandeis, who was a lawyer that supported reforms protecting worker’s right.

Background Info.

1903, the state had passed a law limiting women hour labor to a max of 10 hours in certain jobs (mechanical establishment, factory, or laundry).

The explanation to this law was due because healthy mothers are “essential to vigorous offsprings”, therefore the physical well being of the women was in the publics interest, and the regulation of women’s working hours are in the hands of the State.

If this law was violated then a fine between $10-$25 would have to paid.

What was the problem?
Fenton created his case by stating that Women,
as citizens, deserve the same rights and privileges as other citizens, meaning that women should have the freedom to make their own bargains and to contract freely.

The argument was aimed to prevent the state from gaining any rights to regulate economic activity, yet it also expressed the sentiments of many feminist in this time period. For example,, Clara Colby, the editor of the Port;and-base “Woman’s Tribune.”., who argued that the state had no right to put upon laws on women as an individual and was a supporter for workers rights.

Brendeis was hired to present evidence that could be used to go around in different
perspective than the one the jurisdiction had in a similar case in 1905, where a court had ruled unconstitutional that limited hours for workers at a bakery, in which all employers where male.

Brandeis presented many evidences showing a direct link between long hours of work and women’s health.
more than 100 pages were used to present evidence evidence on effects of long hours of labor in the “health, safety, moral, and general welfare of women.”.
evidence came from medical reports, psychological written reports, statistical lists, and conclusions of various legislative bodies and public committees by by Brandeis sister in law, Josephine Goldmark, and several of her colleagues from National Consumers’ League.

Oregan's side: Represented by Brendeis
Muller's Side: Represented by Fenton
How was this Resolved?
9-0 vote, the justice supported Oregon law.
The court referres that the “proper discharge of
her maternal functions” and the well being of
the race were placed therefore women are placed in a class by herself and it was the legislature who
were protecting their rights.
What were some
negative outcomes?
Contemporary Progressives reformers applauded this decision as a victory battle for improving working condition for women, some equal right feminist recognized that the decision offered protection by reinforcing gender stereotypes, and argumented that ultimately restrict the economic opportunities available to women.

What was accomplished?
Brandeis method of evidence created the
field of “sociological jurisprudence”.
was the first to use sociological and scientific data and additional to legal arguments . It served a model for future cases where non-legal data was used to argue a case
The Brendeis Brief is still presently commonly used as a defense for arguments in court.

Keating-Owen Act

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Muller v. State of Oregon (law Case)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

Educational Broadcasting Corporation. PBS. PBS, 2006. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

"Key Supreme Court Cases: Muller v. Oregon (ABA Division for Public Education)." Key Supreme Court Cases: Muller v. Oregon (ABA Division for Public Education). N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

Lipin, Lewrence. "Muller v. Oregon (1908)." Muller v. Oregon (1908). Portland State University and the Oregon Historical Society., 1982. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

"Muller v. Oregon 208 U.S. 412 (1908)." Justia Law. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
"Keating–Owen Act." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Oct. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
"History Engine: Tools for Collaborative Education and Research | Episodes." History Engine: Tools for Collaborative Education and Research | Episodes. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
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