Labor Contracts Are Not Considered Involuntary Servitude

1897

Sailors working on the commercial ship the Arago in California find themselves in jail when they try to quit. Local marshals bring them back to the ship and force them back to work. The sailors sue, claiming that the forced labor is a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment’s ban on involuntary servitude. But, in Robertson v. Baldwin, the Supreme Court rules that there has not been a Thirteenth Amendment violation. The men had all signed employment contracts, so their labor is not “forced” and they have an obligation to complete the work they have contracted to do.