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National League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833 (1976) p.207


commerce clause


Federal act extended the maximum hour and minimum wage provisions to all employees of state and local governments. Cities, states and intergovernmental organizations brought an action challenging the validity of the 1974 amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act which extended its minimum wage and maximum hour provisions to almost all employees of states and their political subdivisions.


A three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 406 F.Supp. 826, dismissed and appeals were taken.


Whether the Act was constitutional.



Congress cannot tell municipalities and states how much to pay their police and fire personnel. The Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Rehnquist, held that insofar as the 1974 amendments operated directly to displace the states' ability to structure employer-employee relationships in areas of traditional governmental functions, such as fire prevention, police protection, sanitation, public health, and parks and recreation, they were not within the authority granted Congress by the commerce clause, in that Congress had sought to wield its power in a fashion that would impair the states' ability to function effectively within a federal system and its exercise of authority does not comport with the federal system of government embodied in the Constitution. Reversed and remanded.


Federal act extended the maximum hor and minimum wage provisions to all employees of state and local governments. Commerce clause is grant of plenary authority to Congress and congressional power over areas of private endeavor, even when its exercise may preempt express state law determinations contrary to the result which has commended itself to collective wisdom of Congress, is limited only by requirement that means chosen by Congress must be reasonably adapted to end permitted by Constitution.


Here, the Court is striking down Congressional legislation.
This case was expressly overruled by Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority.

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