The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed by Congress in 1938. The Fair Labor Standards Act gave Congress the power to regulate employment conditions like setting a federal minimum wage (that states must comply with), a 44-hour standard work week, the standard of overtime pay, and limiting child labor through the Commerce Clause. A company based in Georgia, Darby Lumber, was arrested under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The federal district court found that the Fair Labor Standards Act was unconstitutional, dismissing the charges against Darby Lumber. The Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision, affirming Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause. The court wrote that Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce “can neither be enlarged nor diminished by the exercise or non-exercise of state power.” In the unanimous decision, the court argued that Congress acted well within their power in passing the Fair Labor Standards Act because employment conditions have a significant impact on interstate commerce. The Tenth Amendment, in this case, was not violated and significantly diminished its power to maintain state autonomy to regulate within its borders, calling the Tenth a “truism”. The Fair Labor Standards Act still remains effective today, although with some amendments to the 1938 act; shifting from a 44-hour standard work week to a 40-hour standard work week. This case, among others after Roosevelt’s sweeping reelection in 1936, upheld Congress’s power to regulate business, even on state levels, to support the New Deal.
United States v. Darby
312 U.S. 100 (1941)
(Wage Laws and Commerce Clause)
The Fair Labor Standards Act set up a comprehensive legislative scheme for preventing the shipment in interstate commerce of certain products and commodities produced in the United States under labor conditions as respects wages and hours which fail to conform to standards set up by the Act. Its purpose, as we judicially know from the declaration of policy in § 2 (a) of the Act, and the reports of Congressional committees proposing the legislation, is to exclude from interstate commerce goods produced for the commerce and to prevent their production for interstate commerce, under conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standards of living necessary for health and general well-being; and to prevent the use of interstate commerce as the means of competition in the distribution of goods so produced, and as the means of spreading and perpetuating such substandard labor conditions among the workers of the several states. The Act also sets up an administrative procedure whereby those standards may from time to time be modified generally as to industries subject to the Act or within an industry in accordance with specified standards, by an administrator acting in collaboration with "Industry Committees" appointed by him.
Section 15 of the statute prohibits certain specified acts and § 16 (a) punishes willful violation of it by a fine of not more than $10,000 and punishes each conviction after the first by imprisonment of not more than six months or by the specified fine or both. Section 15 (1) makes unlawful the shipment in interstate commerce of any goods "in the production of which any employee was employed in violation of section 6 or section 7," which provide, among other things, that during the first year of operation of the Act a minimum wage of 25 cents per hour shall be paid to employees "engaged in [interstate] commerce or the production of goods for [interstate] commerce," and that the maximum hours of employment for employees "engaged in commerce or the production of goods for commerce" without increased compensation for overtime, shall be forty-four hours a week.
Section 15 (a) (2) makes it unlawful to violate the provisions of §§ 6 and 7 including the minimum wage and maximum hour requirements just mentioned for employees engaged in production of goods for commerce. Section 15 (a) (5) makes it unlawful for an employer subject to the Act to violate § 11 (c) which requires him to keep such records of the persons employed by him and of their wages and hours of employment as the administrator shall prescribe by regulation or order.
The indictment charges that appellee is engaged, in the State of Georgia, in the business of acquiring raw materials, which he manufactures into finished lumber with the intent, when manufactured, to ship it in interstate commerce to customers outside the state, and that he does in fact so ship a large part of the lumber so produced. There are numerous counts charging appellee with the shipment in interstate commerce from Georgia to points outside the state of lumber in the production of which, for interstate commerce, appellee has employed workmen at less than the prescribed minimum wage or more than the prescribed maximum hours without payment to them of any wage for overtime. Other counts charge the employment by appellee of workmen in the production of lumber for interstate commerce at wages at less than 25 cents an hour or for more than the maximum hours per week without payment to them of the prescribed overtime wage. Still another count charges appellee with failure to keep records showing the hours worked each day a week by each of his employees as required by § 11 (c) and the regulation of the administrator, and also that appellee unlawfully failed to keep such records of employees engaged "in the production and manufacture of goods, to-wit lumber, for interstate commerce."
First, whether Congress has constitutional power 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 at that wage are greater than a prescribed maximum, and, second, whether it has power to prohibit the employment of workmen in the production of goods "for interstate commerce" at other than prescribed wages and hours. A subsidiary question is whether in connection with such prohibitions Congress can require the employer subject to them 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 goods to-wit, lumber, for 'interstate commerce.'"
While manufacture is not of itself interstate commerce, the shipment of manufactured goods interstate is such commerce and the prohibition of such shipment by Congress is indubitably a regulation of the commerce. The power to regulate commerce is the power "to prescribe the rule by which commerce is governed."
The power of Congress over interstate commerce "is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations other than are prescribed in the Constitution." That power can neither be enlarged nor diminished by the exercise or non-exercise of state power. Congress, following its own conception of public policy concerning the restrictions which may appropriately be imposed on interstate commerce, is free to exclude from the commerce articles whose use in the states for which they are destined it may conceive to be injurious to the public health, morals or welfare, even though the state has not sought to regulate their use.
Such regulation is not a forbidden invasion of state power merely because either its motive or its consequence is to restrict the use of articles of commerce within the states of destination, and is not prohibited unless by other Constitutional provisions. It is no objection to the assertion of the power to regulate interstate commerce that its exercise is attended by the same incidents which attend the exercise of the police power of the states.
The motive and purpose of a regulation of interstate commerce are matters for the legislative judgment upon the exercise of which the Constitution places no restriction and over which the courts are given no control. Whatever their motive and purpose, regulations of commerce which do not infringe some constitutional prohibition are within the plenary power conferred on Congress by the Commerce Clause. Subject only to that limitation, presently to be considered, we conclude that the prohibition of the shipment interstate of goods produced under the forbidden substandard labor conditions is within the constitutional authority of Congress.
The power of Congress under the Commerce Clause is plenary to exclude any article from interstate commerce subject only to the specific prohibitions of the Constitution.
Hammer v. Dagenhart has not been followed. The thesis of the opinion that the motive of the prohibition or its effect to control in some measure the use or production within the states of the article thus excluded from the commerce can operate to deprive the regulation of its constitutional authority has long since ceased to have force. And finally, we have declared "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."
The conclusion is inescapable that Hammer v. Dagenhart was a departure from the principles which have prevailed in the interpretation of the Commerce Clause both before and since the decision and that such vitality, as a precedent, as it then had has long since been exhausted. It should be and now is overruled.
The "production for commerce" intended includes at least production of goods, which, at the time of production, the employer, according to the normal course of his business, intends or expects to move in interstate commerce although, through the exigencies of the business, all of the goods may not thereafter actually enter interstate commerce.
The power of Congress over interstate commerce is not confined to the regulation of commerce among the states. It extends to those activities intrastate which so affect interstate commerce or the exercise of the power of Congress over it as to make regulation of them appropriate means to the attainment of a legitimate end, the exercise of the granted power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.
Congress, having by the present Act adopted 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 though they involve control of intrastate activities. Such legislation has often been sustained with respect to powers, other than the commerce power granted to the national government, when the means chosen, although not themselves within the granted power, were nevertheless deemed appropriate aids to the accomplishment of some purpose within an admitted power of the national government.
Our conclusion is unaffected by the Tenth Amendment which provides: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." The amendment states but a truism that all is retained which has not been surrendered. There is nothing in the history of its adoption to suggest that it was more than declaratory of the relationship between the national and state governments as it had been established by the Constitution before the amendment or that its purpose was other than to allay fears that the new national government might seek to exercise powers not granted, and that the states might not be able to exercise fully their reserved powers.
From the beginning and for many years the amendment has been construed as not depriving the national government of authority to resort to all means for the exercise of a granted power which are appropriate and plainly adapted to the permitted end.
The fixing of a minimum wage is within the legislative power and that the bare fact of its exercise is not a denial of due process under the Fifth more than under the Fourteenth Amendment. Nor is it any longer open to question that it is within the legislative power to fix maximum hours.
The Act is sufficiently definite to meet constitutional demands. One who employs persons, without conforming to the prescribed wage and hour conditions, to work on goods which he ships or expects to ship across state lines, is warned that he may be subject to the criminal penalties of the Act. No more is required.
Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause is plenary (except for a few exceptions), so it can regulate anything falling under its purview by whatever means it deems best suited towards achieving its end.
Motive does not matter because Congress has the power to stop shipments in interstate commerce. Overruled Hammer v. Dagenhart which tried to regulate child labor. Congress is allowed to regulate interstate commerce as long as it does not violate any Constitutional provision.
Intrastate manufacturing is not “interstate commerce” but clearly can affect it when the goods produced in one state are shipped across state lines and as such substantially affect such commerce
Tenth Amendment is a “truism” and only “declaratory.” Constitution would be the exact same without the Tenth Amendment.
See also: Hammer v. Dagenhart, where the Court held that banning the interstate shipment of goods produced in bad conditions is valid because Congress wants to prevent a “race to the bottom” in terms of prices and working conditions that no state can stop on its own. If Congress thinks this Act is the best way of tackling this pressing issue affecting interstate commerce, it has the power to pass it.
1. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 provides for fixing minimum wages and maximum hours for employees engaged in the production of goods for interstate commerce, with increased compensation for overtime, and forbids, under pain of fine and imprisonment: (1) violation by an employer of such wage and hour provisions; (2) shipment by him in interstate commerce of any goods in the production of which any employee was employed in violation of such provisions; and (3) failure of the employer to keep such records of his employees and of their wages and hours, as shall be prescribed by administrative regulation or order.
Held within the commerce power and consistent with the Fifth and Tenth Amendments.
2. While manufacture is not of itself interstate commerce, the shipment of manufactured goods interstate is such commerce and the prohibition of such shipment by Congress is a regulation of interstate commerce.
3. Congress, following its own conception of public policy concerning the restrictions which may appropriately be imposed on interstate commerce, is free to exclude from it articles whose use in the State for which they are destined it may conceive to be injurious to the public health, morals or welfare, even though the State has not sought to regulate their use.
4. Such regulation is not a forbidden invasion of state power merely because either its motive or its consequence is to restrict the use of articles of commerce within the States of destination; and is valid unless prohibited by other Constitutional provisions.
5. The motive and purpose of the present regulation are plainly to make effective the Congressional conception of public policy that interstate commerce should not be made the instrument of competition in the distribution of goods produced under substandard labor conditions, which competition is injurious to the commerce and to the States from and to which it flows.
6. The motive and purpose of a regulation of interstate commerce are matters for the legislative judgment upon the exercise of which the Constitution places no restriction and over which the courts are given no control.
7. In prohibiting interstate shipment of goods produced under the forbidden substandard labor conditions the Act is within the authority of Congress if no Constitutional provision forbids.
8. Hammer v. Dagenhart overruled; Carter v. Carter Coal Co. declared to have been limited.
9. The "production for interstate commerce" intended by the Act includes, at least, production of goods, which, at the time of production, the employer, according to the normal course of his business, intends or expects to move in interstate commerce although, through the exigencies of the business, all of the goods may not thereafter actually enter interstate commerce.
10. The power of Congress over interstate commerce extends to those intrastate activities which so affect interstate commerce or the exercise of the power of Congress over it as to make their regulation an appropriate means to the attainment of a legitimate end, -- the exercise of the granted power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.
11. Congress, having by the present Act adopted the policy of excluding from interstate commerce all goods produced for that 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 though they involve control of intrastate activities.
12. Independently of the prohibition of shipment or transportation of the proscribed goods, the provision of the Act for the suppression of their production for interstate commerce is within the commerce power.
13. The Tenth Amendment is not a limitation upon the authority of the National Government to resort to all means for the exercise of a granted power which are appropriate and plainly adapted to the permitted end.
14. The requirements of the Act as to the keeping of records are valid as incidental to the wage and hour requirements.
15. The wage and hour provisions of the Act do not violate the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.
16. In its criminal aspect, the Act is sufficiently definite to meet constitutional demands.
How the Justices Voted
Majority: Stone, joined by unanimous