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The labor of human beings is not a commodity

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2023 | Employment Law |

Every person has the legal right to equality, fairness and justice because of the New York State Constitution, which has significantly influenced New York’s employment laws. Under Article 1 Section 17 of the Constitution, the “labor of human beings is not a commodity nor an article of commerce.”

A commodity is an exchangeable or tradeable product, meaning it is replaceable, and anyone can buy, sell or trade it for something of proportionate value. Reducing human labor to a commodity can lead to exploitation.

How does it lead to exploitation?

Human labor is the deliberate attempt of an individual to produce or provide something to another person or entity. It is a person working to make a living so they can continue living. However, that laborer also has a life beyond their work. They need to sleep, eat and take breaks. They must go home every day and fulfill other obligations.

When an employer reduces the labor of their employees to a commodity, they no longer value their employees as living, feeling and thinking individuals with needs and rights. Instead, they see their employees as products. Because they see their employees as products, they may exploit them and take advantage of them. The law prevents such exploitation, so that employers do not abuse their employees by giving them unfair wages and unreasonable working hours.

Employee exploitation is against the law

Every employee has the capacity and the legal right to negotiate their wages and benefits because they are not commodities. If they must work over eight hours a day or more than five days a week, then they deserve fair overtime pay. Failure to give fair wages and hours to employees violates state and federal laws.

A commodity does not feel pain, fatigue or pressure. A human being does.