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Adamson Act of 1916

Woodrow Wilson

Adamson Act of 1916: Woodrow Wilson was the 28th American President who served in office from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1921. One of the important  New Freedom progressive reforms, attacks against unfair business practices and federal laws passed during his presidency was the Adamson Act.

Definition and Summary of the Adamson Act of 1916
Summary and definition:
The 1916 Adamson Act was a federal law passed during the era of the Progressive Movement that established the 8 hour working day for railroad workers and time and a half for overtime as of 1 January 1917.

The bill averted a major railroad strike that would have crippled the country and interfere with war production.

Wilson's New Freedom Reforms: Adamson Act for kids
President Woodrow Wilson, like his predecessors Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft, was a firm supporter of the Progressive Movement and Progressive reforms. His New Freedom polices included the passing of the federal law known as the Adamson Act which established an eight hour working day for railroad workers and prevented a pending railway strike.

Adamson Act for kids: Background History
The Adamson Act and the ruling of the Supreme Court to establish and eight hour working day for railroad workers was the culmination of over 100 years of strikes, disputes and protests such as the
Great Railroad Strike of 1877. For additional facts refer to Railroads in the 1800s and the History of US Labor Unions.

Adamson Act for kids: Why was the amendment to the law passed?
The Adamson Act was passed in response to a pending strike by the major brotherhoods of railroad workers. In 1915 Railroad brotherhoods adopted a resolution to demand an eight hour work day and time and a half for overtime but this was rejected by the Railroad companies. President Wilson attempted to intervene in the dispute but failed to reach an amicable resolution and to avoid the threatened strike requested Congress to pass legislation granting an 8 hour work day for railroad workers.

Who sponsored the Adamson Act?
The Adamson Act was sponsored and named for the progressive U.S. Representative William Charles Adamson (1854 1929) from Georgia and a judge for the United States Customs Court.

What did the Adamson Act do
The Adamson Act:

  • Established an 8 hour working day, with additional pay for overtime work, for employees engaged in operation of trains for interstate railroad carriers

Adamson Act for kids
The Adamson Act substantially increased the labor costs of the railroads and the law was challenged as unconstitutional by the railroads before the Supreme Court in Wilson v. New (January 8-10, 1917), claiming that it raised wages rather than regulated hours. The workers threatened strike action and President Wilson intervened once again and secured a promise from the railroad companies to grant the eight-hour day regardless of the Court's decision. On March 19, 1917 the Supreme Court ruled on Wilson v. New declaring the Adamson Act constitutional.

Significance of the Adamson Act
The significance of the Adamson Act was that the bill was the first U.S. federal legislation that regulated the hours of workers in private companies.

US American History
1913-1928: WW1 & Prohibition
Progressive Reforms
New Freedom

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