Lochner v. New York

Lochner v. New York is a 1905 Supreme Court decision invalidating a New York law that forbids bakers to work more than 60 hours a week.

It’s now widely-reviled as an example of the heartlessness of a Supreme Court that always sides with businesses against workers.

There are modern scholars, though, who like it because it upholds the right to contract. And it looks like this law was passed by big bake shops who wanted to make business more difficult for (mostly-immigrant) competitors.

This article, by Damon Root of Reason, offers the clearest articulation of that view. David Bernstein of GMU has written a book on Lochner, but this article sums it up nicely.

At issue in the case was a provision capping working hours in New York’s 1895 Bakeshop Act, which banned bakery employees from working more than 10 hours per day or 60 hours per week. In its 5-4 decision, the Court nullified this provision for violating the liberty of contract secured by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Continue reading