Sunday, November 16, 2008
Labor Relations and Barbecue Jurisprudence
In my research into the history of barbecue, I recently turned up a (somewhat) landmark legal case involving barbecue, labor relations, and housing law.
In 1914, Henry M. Williams, a weaver at the Cotton Mills Company in Columbia, South Carolina, asked to be excused from work for two days because he wanted to prepare and give a barbecue. The request was denied, but Williams left work for the barbecue anyway. When he returned to the mill a few days later, he was told that his loom had been given to someone else. Williams was offered another position at a lower wage, which he declined, and he was subsequently evicted from his company-owned house in the mill village.
Williams brought suit against the mill company for wrongful eviction and won. The mill company appealed and the case made it to the South Carolina Supreme Court. One of the key issues was whether Williams should have been allowed to testify the reason he missed two days of work. The mill’s lawyers had objected, apparently recognizing that—in South Carolina, at least—knowing that a man skipped work to barbecue would likely bias any jury in his favor.
Williams won the appeal.
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