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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
Facts of the Case 

A law passed by Congress in 1898 made it illegal for employers to fire employees solely on the basis of their participation in labor unions. The law essentially made the "yellow dog" contract illegal. William Adair, a representative of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company, violated the law by firing a locomotive fireman who had joined a union.


Did the law violate the right of employers and employees to enter into contracts with each other as protected by the Fifth Amendment which prevents government from depriving an individual of liberty or property without due process of law?


The Court found that the statute violated the Constitution and was not a legitimate exercise of congressional authority to regulate interstate commerce. Justice Harlan argued that it is important to preserve the balance of freedoms which exists between employers and employees: "The right of a person to sell his labor upon such terms as he deems proper is, in essence, the same as the right of the purchaser of labor to prescribe the conditions upon which he will accept such labor from the person offering to sell it." The law violated the liberties of both employers and employees since it compelled them to accept certain conditions in the purchasing and selling of labor.

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ADAIR v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
ADAIR v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"ADAIR v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,