Labor is not a Commodity: Workers and Economic Rights
For the traditional trade union movement, the notion that human beings were like objects, to be used up during the production process, was highly offensive. As Samuel Gompers melodramatically stated, “You cannot weigh the human soul in the same scales with a piece of pork. You cannot weigh the heart and soul of a child with the same scales upon with you weigh any commodity.” Traditional trade unionists believed that workers had rights unrelated to the price they could command on the open market for their labor. This view was supported by the Clayton Act, passed in 1914 after years of agitation by the labor movement, which contained the simple declaration that, “The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce.” When signing the Act into law, then President Woodrow Wilson declared that “a man’s labor is not a commodity but a part of his life, and that, therefore, the courts must treat it as if it were part of his life. I am sorry that there were any judges in the United States who needed to be told that.
Joe Burns, Reviving the Strike.