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Contract Labor

act, laborers, country, immigration and immigrants

CONTRACT LABOR. Previous to 1::5, when on 26 February, the Contract Labor Law was passed by Congress, employers of large bodies of laborers were accustomed to arrange with their agents abroad for the shipment to tills country of large numbers of an ignorant, servile class of foreign laborers—a practice that had a most disastrous effect upon home labor. These °assisted immigrants)) reduced our labor market to a level with themselves, for not only was their passage-money paid, but they were bound by an agreement to work for a specified time at wages below those paid to resident laborers. A remedy for these evils was sought in the passage of the act above mentioned, which had a three-fold design, viz.: (1) to pro tect the interests of our own laboring classes; (2) to raise the standard of foreign immi grants; and (3) to check the immigration to this country of those who were unable to pay their own passage.

The main provisions of the Act are as fol lows:— First. °The prepayment of transportationtor the assistance or encouragement of migration of aliens or foreigners under contract to labor in the United States, is unlawful." Second. °Such contracts made previous to their migration are void." Third, °Every person or corporation guilty of unlawfully assisting or encouraging the im migration of such laborers is subject to a penalty." Fourth. °The master of any vessel know ingly bringing such laborers into the country is to be decreed guilty of a misdemeanor.' Various amendments have been added to the original act, providing for the proper in spection of vessels to ascertain violations of the law, if any; to prevent the landing of aliens that come within the prohibitions of the Act, or their deportation, if landed; forbidding the soliciting of immigration abroad by promises of employment in this country; and extending the penalties for violation of the Act so as to include any who. may assist in bringing in pro

hibited aliens. On 3 March 1903, the prohibi tions contained in the above act were extended to all forms of implied contracts, and tnade to cover labor or service of any kind, whether skilled or unskilled.

The Contract Labor Law and its supple mentary legislation have been declared consti tutional under the clause giving to Congress the powex °to regulate commerce with foreign nations;" but the statute has been held by the United States Supreme Court to be directed only against the importation of unskilled cheap labor and to be applied solely to the °assisted immigrant brought into die country under con tract to perform manual labor or service." It is held, therefore, by amendatory legislation since 1885, that domestic servants, actors, artists, lecturers, singers, ministers, professors and members of a family or relatives of resi dents not of certain other excluded classes, as persons insane, diseased, convicts, or paupers, shall be exempt from the prohibitory provisions of the Act, and are entitled to admission.

The above laws have failed, howeve,r fully to protect immigrants from southern Europe against the labor contractors known as padrones, who, talcing advantage of the immigrants' ig norance of our language and customs, have gained control of laborers of their own race and often make large fortunes by furnishing these laborers to American employers. Consult-United States Immigration Commission, (Immigration Legislation) (1912).