Samuel Gompers and George Sutherland
posted by Gerard Magliocca
My research into George Sutherland, one of the “Four Horsemen,” establishes that the man who was considered an enemy of organized labor as a Justice for striking down minimum wage laws for women and declaring the National Labor Relation Act unconstitutional was seen as a friend of labor when he was a Senator from Utah. Sutherland was sent to the Senate in 1904 by the state legislature, and in 1916 he sought reelection in a popular vote for the first time (the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified in 1913). Sutherland lost narrowly, but he picked up a key endorsement from Samuel Gompers, the founder of the AFL (American Federation of Labor). Here is what Gompers said in his endorsement:
“I take pleasure in saying that Senator Sutherland has been, not only sympathetic, but very helpful in the passage of many measures through the United States Senate which the organizations of Labor have urged for enactment, such as the railroad men’s Hours of Service law; the Employers’ Liability Law; the popular election of United States Senators; legislation in behalf of children; the right of petition; the literacy test contained in the Immigration bills [this was probably a nativist provision designed to exclude foreign labor]; eight hour legislation and Industrial Education and Vocational Trade Training measures . . .
During the historic contest in the United States Senate on the Seamen’s bill by Senator LaFollette, Senator Sutherland rendered exceptional service . . . He is one of the members of the United States Senate whom we always feel free to approach and solicit his assistance.”
Needless to say, Gompers was not such a fan by 1923, when he denounced Sutherland’s opinion in Adkins v. Children’s Hospital and said: ”All progressive men and women must resent the language used by the Court . . . It demeans humanity.”