Ellis v. United States - 206 U.S. 246 (1907)
U.S. Supreme Court
Ellis v. United States, 206 U.S. 246 (1907)
Ellis v. United States
Nos. 567, 664-669
Argued April 23, 24, 1907
Decided May 13, 1907
206 U.S. 246
The provisions in the Act of August 1, 1892, 27 Stat. 340, limiting the hours of laborers and mechanics employed by the United States or any contractor or subcontractor upon any of the public works of the United States to eight hours per day except in cases of extraordinary emergency, and imposing penalties for the violation thereof, are constitutional and within the powers of Congress. In this respect, Congress has the same power as a state has over the construction of its public works. Atkin v. Kansas, 191 U. S. 207.
An act of Congress otherwise valid is not unconstitutional because the motive in enacting it was to secure certain advantages for conditions of labor not subject to the general control of Congress.
Although, in the absence of special laws, the government, purely as a contractor, may stand like a private person, it does not, by making a contract, waive its sovereignty or give up its power to make laws which render criminal a breach of the contract.
The disappointment of a contractor with regard to obtaining some of his materials did not, under the circumstances of this case, amount to an extraordinary emergency within the meaning of the statute and justify him in having laborers work more than eight hours.
One who intentionally adopts certain conduct in certain circumstances known to him, which conduct is unlawful, intentionally breaks the law.
Persons employed on dredges and scows in dredging a channel in a harbor are not within the meaning of the Act of August 1, 1892, laborers or mechanics employed on any of the public works of the United States.
The facts are stated in the opinion.