Police power as basis of labor laws

Azucena (2013), citing People vs. Vera Reyes (67 Phil. 190) and 31 Am. Jur., p. 945, emphasizes that, while social justice is the raison d’etre of labor laws, their basis or foundation is the police power of the State. It is the power of Government to enact laws, within constitutional limits, to promote the order, safety, health, morals and general welfare of society.

It is settled that state legislatures may enact laws for the protection of the safety and health of employees as an exercise of the police power, and this is true even though such laws affect, not the health of the community generally, but the health or welfare of operatives in any given situation.

The concept of police power is well-established in this jurisdiction. It has been defined as the state authority to enact legislation that may interfere with personal liberty or property in order to promote the general welfare. As defined, it consists of (1) an imposition of restraint upon liberty or property, (2) in order to foster the common good. It is not capable of an exact definition but has been, purposely, veiled in general terms to underscore its all-comprehensive embrace. (G.R. No. 81958)

It has been ruled that the right of every person to pursue a business, occupation, or profession is subject to the paramount right of the government as a part of its police power to impose such restrictions and regulations as the protection of the public may require. The Constitution does not secure the liberty to conduct a business so as to injure the public at large or any substantial group. The right of reasonable regulation is a modification of the sweeping generalization that every person has a right to pursue any lawful calling.

A statute passed to protect labor is a legitimate exercise of police power, although it incidentally destroys existing contract rights. Contracts regulating relations between capital and labor ... are not merely contractual, and said labor contracts are impressed with public interest, and must yield to the common good. (G.R. No. 202275)

And yet, police power itself has to respect the Constitution. The classic People vs. Pomar, 46 Phil. 455, says: "But the state, when providing by legislation for the protection of the public health, the public morals, or the public safety, is subject to and is controlled by the paramount authority of the constitution of the state, and will not be permitted to violate rights secured or guaranteed by that instrument or interfere with the execution of the powers and rights guaranteed to the people under their law — the constitution." (Mugler vs. Kansas, 123 U.S., 623)

The above discussion is based on an outline by Azucena (2013) in his popular book on labo standards. All his books are available in fine bookstores nationwide. SOURCE: Azucena, C. A. (2013). The Labor Code: with Comments and Cases (Vol. 1). National Book Store. https://www.rexestore.com/labor-standards/981-the-labor-code-with-comments-and-cases-volume-i-revised-edition.html