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HomeSorted by levelC1 - AdvancedThe baker’s lawsuit and the worst court decision in American history

The baker’s lawsuit and the worst court decision in American history

[Reading level: C1 – Advanced]

Arrested for forcing employees to overwork, the bakery owner argued that the state could not interfere in the labor agreement. The case created a turning point about the US Constitution for more than 100 years.

 

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most New York City bakeries opened in apartment cellars, because rents were low and floors were sturdy enough to withstand the weight of ovens. The ceiling was very low, only about 1.5 meters, forcing most bakers to stoop.

 

The bakeries have few doors, and there is little light during the day. In summer, employees were subject to intense heat, and in winter, even the heat of an oven could not keep bakers warm. Inadequate ventilation also meant that powder dust and fumes during baking could not escape.

 

Most people who visited these bakeries agreed that the employees looked dirty and that the bread they produced posed a health risk to consumers. Working long hours in this environment also adversely affected the workers’ health. In 1895, the average bakery employee worked 74 hours a week, even longer.

 

To address these issues, New York passed the Bakery Act of 1895, which established minimum hygiene standards, including regulations that forbade domesticated animals in bakeries and forbade workers to sleep in baking chamber. An important provision was to limit the working hours of bakers to no more than 10 hours per day and 60 hours per week.

 

Joseph Lochner was a German immigrant who owned a bakery in Utica, New York, that made cookies, breads, and pastries for early-morning customers.

 

Unlike other bakeries, where there were two separate shifts for evening and morning, Lochner’s bakery employed only a team of bakers. Lochner employees, therefore, often worked late at night, sometimes sleeping in the bakery before getting up early to bake cakes for customers.

 

In January 1901, Mr. Lochner was arrested for violating the Bakery Act. But he said it was not a crime because in the contract signed with employees there was a clause “they are willing to work overtime.”

 

Mr. Lochner’s attorney argued that the freedom to contract is one of the basic rights of workers, protected by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which said not even the government could interfere interfere with this right.

 

But the Court argued that the freedom to contract should still be restricted, to protect public health or the health of workers, as in this case.

 

The court found Lochner guilty and fined him $50 (more than $1,700 today). Mr. Lochner twice appealed to the Court of Appeal, but was unsuccessful. Finally, the Supreme Court decided to open the trial, February 1905.

 

Finally, the Supreme Court reversed the results of the case, declaring the victory belonged to Mr. Lochner, arguing that the extension of working hours did not affect the health of workers, as well as the quality of products.

 

“Bakery baking is not the same as mining ore, it is not a hard and dangerous type of labor. Therefore, limiting the number of working hours is not meaningful in protecting the health of bakers,” the judgment stated.

 

While bakery owners and other businessmen welcomed the Court’s decision, labor organizations denounced it as reactionary, asserting their view of the judiciary as the hand of capitalist entrepreneurs and the enemy of working people.

 

A century later, the Supreme Court’s decision is still criticized by legal scholars as one of the most condemned in American history. The 14th Amendment, which stipulated that “the State must not interfere in the labor contract”, has been criticized by scholars as a tool of the exploitative capitalist regime to openly oppress workers, restricting State control and limit the minimum rights of workers.

 

From a macro perspective, the case is frequently cited as an example of the most important business case ever decided by US courts, severely limiting the government’s ability to regulate business and the economy.

 

Finally, in 1937, after three decades of controversy, the Supreme Court ruled that “freedom of contract is not unlimited”. This means that the contract is not only a private binding between the employee and the employer, but it must be in accordance with regulations of the State.

 

Today, the Lochner Bakery case is imprinted on every American law student’s mind as a bad judicial decision and one of the most notorious of the Constitutional law cases.

 

Source: https://vietnam.postsen.com/world/151168/The-baker%E2%80%99s-lawsuit-and-the-worst-sentence-in-American-history.html

WORD BANK:

interfere /ˌɪn.təˈfɪər/ [B2] (v): can thiệp

constitution /ˌkɒn.stɪˈtʃuː.ʃən/ [C1] (n): Hiến pháp

cellar /ˈsel.ər/ [B2] (n): tầng hầm

sturdy /ˈstɜː.di/ (adj):  chắc chắn

oven /ˈʌv.ən/ [B1] (n): lò nướng

stoop /stuːp/ (v): khom lưng

be subject to sth /ˈsʌb.dʒekt/ [C1] (adj): phải chịu cái gì

intense /ɪnˈtens/ [C1] (adj): gay gắt, khắc nghiệt

inadequate /ɪˈnæd.ɪ.kwət/ [C1] (adj): không đủ

ventilation /ˈven.tɪ.leɪt/ (n): thông gió

pose a risk to sb/sth [C1] (v): đe dọa tới ai/cái gì

adverse /ˈæd.vɜːs/ [C2] (adj): xấu, tiêu cực

address /əˈdres/ [C1] (v): giải quyết

establish a standard (v): thiết lập tiêu chuẩn

hygiene /ˈhaɪ.dʒiːn/ [C1] (n): vệ sinh

domesticated animal /dəˈmes.tɪ.keɪ.tɪd ˈæn.ɪ.məl/ (n): vật nuôi

chamber /ˈtʃeɪm.bər/ (n): buồng

provision /prəˈvɪʒ.ən/ (n): điều khoản (luật, hợp đồng)

immigrant /ˈɪm.ɪ.ɡrənt/ [B2] (n): người nhập cư

pastry /ˈpeɪ.stri/ [C1] (n): bánh ngọt

shift /ʃɪft/ [B2] (n): ca làm việc

clause /klɔːz/ (n): điều khoản

attorney /əˈtɜː.ni/ [C1] (n): luật sư

amendment /əˈmend.mənt/ (n): tu chính án

restrict /rɪˈstrɪkt/ [C1] (v): hạn chế

find sb guilty /ˈɡɪl.ti/ [B1] (v): kết tội ai đó

appeal /əˈpiːl/ (v): kháng cáo

the Court of Appeal (n): Tòa phúc thẩm

the Supreme Court (n): Tòa án Tối cao

trial /traɪəl/ [B2] (n): phiên tòa

reverse sth /rɪˈvɜːs/ [C1] (v): đảo ngược cái gì

mining /ˈmaɪ.nɪŋ/ [C2] (n): khai thác

ore /ɔːr/ (n): quặng

judgment /ˈdʒʌdʒ.mənt/ [C2] (n): bản án

denounce /dɪˈnaʊns/ (v): tố cáo, lên án

reactionary /riˈæk.ʃən.ər.i/ (adj): phản động

assert /əˈsɜːt/ [C1] (v): khẳng định

judiciary /dʒuːˈdɪʃ.ər.i/ (n): cơ quan tư pháp

capitalist /ˈkæp·ɪ·t̬əl·ɪst/ (adj): thuộc về tư bản

entrepreneur /ˌɒn.trə.prəˈnɜːr/ (n): doanh nhân

scholar /ˈskɒl.ər/ [C1] (n): học giả

condemn /kənˈdem/ [C2] (v): lên án

stipulate /ˈstɪp.jə.leɪt/ (v): quy định

exploitative /ɪkˈsplɔɪ.tə.tɪv/ (adj): mang tính bóc lột

regime /reɪˈʒiːm/ [C2] (n): chế độ

oppress /əˈpres/ (v): đàn áp

macro /ˈmæk.rəʊ/ (adj): vĩ mô

cite sth as sth /saɪt/ (v): lấy cái gì như dẫn chứng cho cái gì

regulate /ˈreɡ.jə.leɪt/ [C1] (v): điều tiết

controversy /ˈkɒn.trə.vɜː.si/ [C1] (n): tranh cãi

rule /ruːl/ (v): ra phán quyết

binding /ˈbaɪn.dɪŋ/ (n): sự ràng buộc

in accordance with sth /əˈkɔː.dəns/ [C1] (pre): phù hợp với cái gì

imprint sth on sb’s mind /ɪmˈprɪnt/ (v): in sâu cái gì vào tâm trí

notorious /nəʊˈtɔː.ri.əs/ [C1] (adj): khét tiếng


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