Labor Contracts Not Considered Involuntary Servitude

1897

Sailors working on the commercial ship Arago in California find themselves in jail when they try to quit. Under the threat of returning them to jail, local marshals take them back to the ship and force them back to work. The sailors sue, claiming that forced labor is a violation of the 13th Amendment’s ban on involuntary servitude. But in Robertson v. Baldwin, the U.S. Supreme Court rules there is no 13th Amendment violation. Because the men had signed employment contracts, their labor was not “forced,” and they had an obligation to complete the work they had contracted to do.