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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/81

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PENDING PROBLEMS FOR WAGE-EARNERS.

The eight-hour party has succeeded through political influence in making eight hours a legal working day in governmental employment, and largely also in municipal contracts, and violators of the law have been rigorously prosecuted. A remarkable case occurred in Buffalo,[1] which worked great hardship upon a citizen, and led to the decision of Justice White, of the Superior Court at Buffalo, declaring the eight-hour law unconstitutional, based upon the clause of the Constitution which provides that no person "shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law." That provision of the Constitution has been construed to mean that the rights and privileges of a citizen to make contracts relat-


    wherever large operations are in progress, crowding out American labor by accepting lower wages. In Texas and other border States invasions of Mexicans occur at regular intervals, especially at sheep-shearing time; these people contribute nothing to the wealth of the country, and patronize the railways by walking home on the ties!

  1. An investigation made by the Senate Committee on Immigration in 1893 (Senator Hill chairman) developed the startling fact that Italian bankers remitted to Italy from New York city alone twenty-five to thirty millions of dollars a year, largely savings of "Dago" laborers, and a marked increase in wealth in certain sections of Italy has been traced directly to money earned in the United States by these "birds of passage." Italians who have become domiciled here for a few years are beginning to make incursions into skilled labor fields where they were unknown formerly, and where even such a suggestion would have been ridiculed. In the shoe trade, for example, it is said that large numbers of Italians have been substituted for American workmen who went out on strike some time ago. The facts stated in these various footnotes have been gathered at different times during several years by the writer from a variety of independent sources, and it is only when placed in juxtaposition that their true significance becomes apparent. These illustrations are but a few samples of facts at hand that are too numerous to mention, and they present practical problems for legislators and workers of far more importance than any theoretical discussions. "Henry J. Warren, Superintendent of the Barber Asphalt Company, was convicted by a police court in Buffalo of a misdemeanor for a violation of this (eight-hour) section of the Buffalo charter, and punished by imprisonment. From his conviction he appealed to the Court of Sessions and to the General Term of the Supreme Court, where the conviction was affirmed, the courts holding the act constitutional and the conviction valid. As Warren could not by law appeal to the Court of Appeals in that case, he sued out a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court, to test the questions affecting the validity of the conviction, and to inquire by what authority he was restrained of his liberty. This proceeding is a good illustration of the efficacy of the ancient writ of habeas corpus, for, although the Special and General Terms of the Supreme Court dismissed the writ, and again declared the prohibitory statute constitutional and the accused properly convicted; yet upon an appeal to the Court of Appeals the decisions of the lower courts were reversed, and the arrest, trial, and conviction declared without jurisdiction and void. "After this long and tedious fight Warren was released, only to be arrested again for a violation of the eight-hour law, this time for employing an alien Italian laborer. He was indicted by the grand jury, and convicted in the Superior Court at Buffalo. His counsel contended that the act in question, so far as it seemed to prohibit the employment of alien laborers upon public works, was repugnant to the Federal and State Constitutions and to the treaty between the United States and Italy. Upon an appeal to the General Term of the Superior Court, the act, so far as relates to the employment of aliens, was declared unconstitutional, and Warren was discharged." (People vs. Warren, 77 Hun., 120; People ex rd. Warren vs. Sheriff, 144 N. Y., 225.)