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U.S. Supreme Court

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

National League of Cities v. Usery

No. 74-878

Argued April 6, 1975

Reargued March 2, 1976

Decided June 24, 1976*

426 U.S. 833


The Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 1974 so as to extend the Act's minimum wage and maximum hour provisions to almost all employees of States and their political subdivisions. Appellants (including a number of cities and States) in these cases brought an action against appellee Secretary of Labor challenging the validity of these 1974 amendments and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. A three-judge District Court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief might be granted.


1. Insofar as the 1974 amendments operate directly to displace the States' abilities 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 are not within the authority granted Congress by the Commerce Clause. In attempting to exercise its Commerce Clause power to prescribe minimum wages and maximum hours to be paid by the States in their sovereign capacities, Congress has sought to wield its power in a fashion that would impair the States' "ability to function effectively in a federal system," Fry v. United States, 421 U. S. 542, 421 U. S. 547 n. 7, and this exercise of congressional authority does not comport with the federal system of government embodied in the Constitution. Pp. 426 U. S. 840-852.

2. Congress may not exercise its power to regulate commerce so as to force directly upon the States its choices as to how essential decisions regarding the conduct of integral governmental functions are to be made. Fry v. United States, supra, distinguished; Maryland v. Wirtz, 392 U. S. 183, overruled. Pp. 426 U. S. 852-855.

406 F.Supp. 826, reversed and remanded.

Page 426 U. S. 834

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 426 U. S. 856. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which WHITE AND MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 426 U. S. 856. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 426 U. S. 880.

Page 426 U. S. 835

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