Page images






SEC. 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS OF STATE CONSTITUTIONS CONCERNING LABOR.-Wyoming and Utah: “The rights of labor shall have just protection through laws calculated to secure to the laborer proper rewards for his service and to promote the industrial welfare of the State” (Wyo. Con., Art. 1, sec. 22). The Utah constitutional provision is the same, but leaves out the clause “to secure to the laborer proper rewards for his service” (Utah Con., Art. 16, § 1). In North Dakota and Utah: “Every citizen of this State shall be free to obtain employment wherever possible" (N. Dak. Con., Art. 1, $ 23; Utah Con., 12, 19).

Several States have a provision that the legislature shall not enact local or special laws regulating labor: Thus, Any local or special law

regulating labor, trade, mining or manufacturing;' (Pa. Con., Art. 3, $ 7); “Local or special acts

to regulate labor, trade, mining or manufacturing” (Ky. Con., $ 59). Missouri and Texas copy the Pennsylvania provision (Mo. Con., Art. 4, § 53; Tex. Con., Art. 3, § 56). The Louisiana constitution substitutes "agriculture for “mining,” but otherwise the provision is similar (La. Con., 46).

Besides this special provision, many State constitutions provide that there shall be no special local or private law in any case for which provision has been or can be made by general law (Pa., Ind., Ill., Kans., Nebr., Md., W. Va., Ky., Mo., Ark., Tex., Cal., Ñev., Colo., Ga., Ala.); and whether a general law can be made applicable or not is declared by the Missouri constitution to be a judicial question, despite any legislative assertion to the contrary.

SEC. 2. STATUTES GENERALLY DEFINING THE LABOR CONTRACT. The California code has this provision, copied in the other States which have adopted the California code: “The contract of employment is a contract by which one who is called the employer engages another who is called the employee to do something for the benefit of employer or of a third person” (Cal. Civ. C. 1965; Mont. Civ. C. 2650; N. Dak. 4094; S. Dak. Civ. C. 3751.) Sec. 3. STATUTES MAKING GENERAL DEFINITIONS IN LABOR MAT

-Certain States have adopted a general chapter or code of labor matters, such as N. Y., Chap. 32 of the General Laws, contained in the Acts of 1897; Mass., 1891, Chaps. 481, 498, and 508. The Massachusetts chapters, however, do not purport to be exhaustive of the subject. In other States laws affecting the interests of labor are found


scattered under various headings of the statutes. It might well be recommended by the commission that the example of New York be followed, and all laws affecting labor be collected into one chapter or code.

Where there is such a general code or chapter, as in New York, it commonly establishes certain definitions defining the use of words or phrases throughout that chapter. Where, on the other hand, there are acts concerning part of the subject, these often contain definitions applying to such part only. These latter will be found under their respective subjects. But the New York Code contains the following definitions which are valid throughout:

Employee.—“A mechanic, workman, or laborer, who works for another for hire” (N. Y. G. L. 32, 1, 2).

Employer.--"The person employing such mechanic, etc., whether the owner, proprietor, agent, superintendent, foreman, or other subordinate" (N. Y. ibid.).

Factory.-"A mill, workshop, or other manufacturing or business establishment where one or more persons are employed at labor” (N. Y. ibid.).

So in Iowa the amended law establishing the bureau of labor statisties provides that the expressions "factory," •* mill,” workshop,” “mine, store,” “ business house,” “any public or private work," as used in this act, shall be construed to mean any factory, mill, etc., where five or more wage-earners are employed for a certain stipulated compensation (Iowa, 1896, 86, 8). For the other statutes defining factories, etc., see sections relating to those subjects below.

SEC. 4. GENERAL FORM OF THE CONTRACT TO LABOR.- None of the States, except Louisiana, have legislated specifically as to the general form of this contract. It remains therefore subject to the common


1 But see Louisiana (Civ. C., $$ 162–164):
There is only one class of servants in this State, to wit, free servants.

Free servants are in general all free persons who let, hire, or engage their services to another in this State, to be employed therein at any work, commerce, or occupation whatever for the benefit of him who has contracted with them, for a certain price or retribution, or upon certain conditions.

There are three kinds of free servants in this State, to wit:

1. Those who only hire out their services by the day, week, month, or year, in consideration of certain wages; the rules which fix the extent and limits of those contracts are established in the title: Of Letting and Hiring.

2. Those who engage to serve for a fixed time for a certain consideration, and who are therefore considered not as having hired out but as having sold their services.

3. Apprentices; that is, those who engage to serve anyone, in order to learn some art, trade, or profession.

And also (Louisiana C. C., 2673, 2675, 2745–2750):


ART. 2673. There are two species of contracts of lease, to wit: 1. The letting out of things. 2. The letting out of labor or industry. ART. 2675. To let out labor or industry is a contract by which one of the parties binds himself to do something for the other, in consideration of a cetain price agreed on by them both.

ART. 2745. Labor may be let out in three ways:
1. Laborers may hire their services to another person.

2. Carriers and watermen hire out their services for the conveyance either of persons or of goods and merchandise.

3. Workmen hire out their labor or indastry to make buildings or other works.

ART. 2746. A man can only hire out his services for a certain limited time, or for the performance of a certain enterprise.

ART. 2747. A man is at liberty to dismiss a hired servant attached to his person or


law regulating all contracts; that is, it may be written or oral, and is subject to the usual statute of frauds provision, that if not to be performed within one year it must be in writing. It may be doubted, however, whether a contract for life, or even for a long term of years, would be valid. It is a cardinal principle of equity that the contract for labor or personal service will not be enforced specifically, either directly or indirectly, by injunction against the employee from leav ing service; and probably the courts would not sustain a verdict for damages for breach of an unreasonable contract of employment; but there are no statutes upon this subject.

The courts of Indiana, at an early date, refused to enforce a contract for twenty years' service made by a mulatto woman; and the California and Montana codes bave the following provision: "A contract to render personal service, other than a contract of apprenticeship,

can not be enforced against the employee beyond the term of two years from the commencement of service under it; but if the employee voluntarily continues his service under it beyond that time, the contract may be referred to as affording presumptive measure of the compensation” (Cal. Civ. C. 1980; Mont. Civ. C. 2675; N. Dak. Civ. C. 4103; S. Dak. Civ. C. 3760). It would appear from this statute that a contract of personal service for less than two years can be enforced, thus altering the common law in those States. This statute, therefore, works injury to the employee. In Arkansas contracts for services or labor for a longer period than one year shall not entitle the parties to the benefits of this act, unless in writing, signed, witnessed by two disinterested persons, or ac kn wledged” (Ark. 4783).

SEC. 5. TERMINATION OF CONTRACT.- A contract to labor. for a definite time can not be prematurely determined by either party without liability for damages, except for cause. A contract to labor for an indefinite time can usually be determined by either party without notice, except where the customs of the trade, as in domestic service, require a notice equal in length to the term of payment. There are usually no statutes on this point, except that a few States have adopted statutes requiring the employer to give the same notice that he exacts by deposit of money or by withholding wages from the employee.

Thus, “any person or corporation engaged in manufacturing which requires from persons in his or its employ, under penalty of a forfeiture of a part of the wages earned by him, a notice of intention to leave such employ, shall be liable to the payment of a like forfeiture if he or it discharges without similar notice any person in such employ except for incapacity or misconduct, unless in case of a general or partial family, without assigning any reason for so doing. The servant is also free to depart without assigning any cause.

ART. 2748. Laborers, who hire themselves out to serve on plantations or to work in manufactures, have not the right of leaving the person who has hired them, nor can they be sent away by the proprietor, until the time has expired during which they had agreed to serve, unless good and just cause can be assigned.

ART. 2749. If, without any serious ground of complaint, a man should send away a laborer whose services he has hired for a certain time, before that time has expired he shall be bound to pay to such laborer the whole of the salaries which he would have been entitled to receive had the full term of his service arrived.

Art. 2750. But if, on the other hand, a laborer, after having hired out his services, should leave his employer before the time of his engagement has expired, without having any just cause of complaint against his employer, the laborer shall then forfeit all the wages that may be due to him, and shall moreover be compelled to repay all the money he has received, either as due for his wages, or in advance thereof on the running year or on the time of his engagement.

« PreviousContinue »