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United States v. Darby

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Brief Fact Summary.

Congress deemed the hours and wages of employees at a lumber company violate the law and sought to regulate them on the grounds that their shipment of goods constitutes an interstate commerce.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The power to regulate commerce is the power to prescribe the rule by which commerce is governed. It extends not only to those regulations which aid, foster, and protect the commerce, but embraces those which prohibit it.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The authority of the Federal Government over interstate commerce does not differ in extent or character from that retained by the states over intrastate commerce.

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Facts.

Congress attempted to prohibit the shipment in interstate commerce of lumber manufactured by employees whose wages are less than a prescribed minimum or whose weekly hours of labor are greater than a prescribed maximum. It also sought to prohibit the employment of workers in the production of goods for interstate commerce at other than prescribed wages and hours. Congress required the employer to keep records showing the hours worked each day and week by each of his employees including those engaged in the production and manufacture of lumber for interstate commerce.

Issue.

Does Congress have the power to (1) prohibit the shipment in interstate commerce of lumber manufactured by employees whose wages are less than a prescribed minimum or whose weekly hours of labor are greater than a prescribed maximum and to (2) prohibit the employment of workers in the production of goods for interstate commerce at other than prescribed wages and hours.

Held.

(1) Yes, the prohibition of the shipment interstate of goods produced under the forbidden labor conditions is within the constitutional authority of Congress, because whatever Congress’ motive and purpose in its pursuit of regulation, regulations of commerce that do not infringe some constitutional prohibition are within the plenary power conferred on Congress by the Commerce Clause.

(2) Yes, where an employer engaged in the manufacture and shipment of goods in filling orders of extrastate customers manufactures his product with the intent that according to the normal course of his business, which all of it will be selected for shipment to those customers, Congress has the power to restrict the hours and wages. Congress has the power over interstate commerce not confined to the regulation of commerce among the states, and it extends to those activities intrastate which so affect interstate commerce.

Discussion.

(1) The opponent argues that while the prohibition is normally a regulation of the commerce, its motive and purpose is regulation of wages and hours of employees engaged in manufacture, the control of which has been reserved to the states; and that the effect of the present statute is not to exclude the proscribed articles from interstate commerce in aid of state regulation, but to regulate wages and hours within the state contrary to the state policy which has elected to leave them unregulated. However, such regulation is not a forbidden invasion of state power merely because either its motive or its result is to restrict the use of articles of commerce within the states. So long as the regulations do not infringe constitutional prohibitions, they are valid.

(2) The power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce extends to the regulation through legislative action of activities intrastate which have a substantial effect on the commerce or the exercise of Congressional power over it. Congress may adopt an Act with the policy of excluding from interstate commerce all goods produced for the commerce which do not conform to the specified labor standards. It may choose the means reasonably adapted to the attainment of the permitted end, even if they involve control of intrastate activities. The means adopted by Congress for the protection of interstate commerce by suppressing the production of condemned goods for interstate commerce is so related to the commerce and so affects it as to be within the reach of the commerce power.


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