Justin Haas

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Urban planning, garment industry, industrial development, sweatshops, labor law, land use, public health, Baltimore, Maryland legal history


In the latter half of the nineteenth century, increased immigration from eastern Europe and a growing garment industry in Baltimore led to vast growth in so-called sweatshops: cramped workspaces in which clothing was partially or completely sewn for market. As the sweatshops grew, integrated clothing factories were also emerging, finally becoming a real force in the Baltimore garment industry around the turn of the twentieth century. As the integrated factories grew, the workers joined in the growing organized labor movement, and then began to push for greater protections for the health and safety of workers, as well as fair wages. Among the most significant results of the organization of garment workers were the sweatshop laws passed in 1894, 1896, and 1902, which sought greater protection for the laborers in sweatshops, and through some of those protections, of the public health. The passage of these laws was achieved through efforts by both the garment workers unions, which sweatshop workers joined over this same stretch of time, and the state government officials who fought for the laws, namely Jacob Schonfarber, Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Industrial Statistics of Maryland. However, the enforcement regime enacted by the laws passed in the 1902 session of the Maryland General Assembly was viewed by many sweatshop operators as an undue intrusion upon private property rights and the right to work, and as providing authority to the inspectors without sufficient constraint upon their decision-making powers.


Labor and Employment Law | Land Use Law | Law | Legal History