Manufacturers’ Protective Association

Manufacturers’ Protective Association

The Manufacturers’ Protective Association (later Illinois Manufacturers Association) was founded in 1893 by a group of local Chicago manufacturers in response to the passage of the Sweatshop Law of 1893. The legislation was passed by Governor John Peter Altgeld’s administration, under guidance from his Chief Factory Inspector, Florence Kelley. It was the first measure that attempted to regulate child labor, sweatshops, and the working hours of women. In their founding statement, the Association declared that they organized “for the purpose of co-operating to test the constitutionality of a recent act of the Legislature of this State limiting the hours of Female Labor.” The key sections of the legislation, and the most controversial, were Section Four and Section Five.

Section Four prohibited the employment of children under the age of 14 in factories, workshops, and manufacturing businesses. Section Five limited the working-days of women to eight hours a day, and the work-week to a maximum of 48 hours.

The Manufacturers’ Protective Association (MPA) sponsored numerous court cases in Illinois in an attempt to overrule Section Five of the Sweatshop Law. They argues the the Illinois State Constitution prohibited any laws from focusing on a subject that was not included in the title or heading of the legislation. As the law was headed, “An act to regulate the employment of children…”, Section Five, the MPA argues, was not legal or enforceable. On May 14, 1895, they succeeded, as the Illinois Supreme Court ruled the Section unconstitutional.

In 1896, Illinois held a state election and Governor Altgeld failed to be reelected. As such, Florence Kelley was removed as Chief Factory Inspector, and it was revealed that Section Four of the Sweatshop Law was being massively violated in the state of Illinois, particularly in the glass industry.


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