US work tradition revolves round workers placing in eight hours a day, 5 days per week — a schedule immortalized by Dolly Parton in her 1980 music “9 to five.”
It’s simply the norm, many assume. Identical because it ever was.
Besides, it wasn’t at all times so. It has simply held regular at that degree since World Warfare II.
How the US landed on the eight-hour normal wasn’t the results of one union or one trade, one firm or one regulation. Somewhat it took place after a protracted and sophisticated mixture of labor actions, advocacy, political compromises, pioneering employers and financial competitors.
Here’s a (extremely) abbreviated rundown of how US society settled (to this point anyway) on an eight-hour workday.
Usually talking, there was a gentle decline within the size of the workday from the 1800s via World Warfare II, with a reasonably steep drop in the course of the Nineteen Twenties, stated financial historian Benjamin Hunnicutt, a professor on the College of Iowa.
However the descent started from a reasonably excessive degree.
Within the mid-1800s, working 70-plus hours per week was widespread, based on economist Robert Whaples, a professor at Wake Forest College, who created a detailed timeline on the evolution of hours labored in the US for the Financial Historical past Affiliation.
Given that individuals usually labored six days per week again then, that comes out to roughly 12 hours a day.
Not that there weren’t examples within the early twentieth century of individuals placing in much more time than that. On the finish of World Warfare I, as an illustration, blast furnace staff within the metal trade usually logged 84 hours per week, Whaples notes. “These abnormally lengthy hours had been the topic of a lot denunciation and a serious situation in a strike that started in September 1919. The strike failed … however 4 years later US Metal decreased its workday from twelve to eight hours.”
Pioneering employers — and a six-hour workday — make waves
In 1926, the Ford Motor Firm, below the management of Henry Ford, famously instituted an eight-hour-a-day, five-day workweek.
Then, within the Nice Melancholy, owing to excessive unemployment, the thought for a 6-hour workweek got here into focus.
Hunnicutt’s e-book, “Kellogg’s Six-Hour Day,” tells the story of how cereal baron W.Okay. Kellogg determined in 1930 to institute six-hour shifts instead of eight-hour shifts, with some discount in staff’ pay.
The transfer let Kellogg rent again workers who had been let go and rent different unemployed individuals. However he was additionally motivated by a conviction that giving extra time again to staff was a social good. Inside two years, staff had begun incomes in six hours what they used to earn working eight, Hunnicutt stated.
Kellogg’s transfer attracted nationwide consideration, and shortly there was a push to federally legislate a six-hour workday. However a invoice aiming to quickly institute a 30-hour workweek, which handed within the Senate, failed within the Home.
Quickly after, in 1933, newly-elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into regulation the Nationwide Industrial Restoration Act, below which employers entered into voluntary agreements to institute 35- to 40-hour workweeks and pay a minimal wage of $12 to $15 per week. Two years later, nevertheless, the Supreme Courtroom dominated that the NIRA was unconstitutional on account of a provision pertaining to the slaughter of chickens.
Enter the Truthful Labor Requirements Act
Regardless of the NIRA being invalidated, lawmakers and unions continued to push for higher labor situations. Within the late Thirties, they created one thing that will set up throughout the board what we all know in the present day because the eight-hour-per-day, five-day workweek, along with setting a federal minimal wage and instituting baby labor protections.
In 1938, FDR signed into regulation the Truthful Labor Requirements Act, which established that employers should pay extra time to workers working greater than 40 hours per week.
The perpetual tradeoff between money and time
The Kellogg six-hour day, which had been in style with workers when it was put in place, didn’t final. By the late Nineteen Fifties, a majority of workers had opted to renew an eight-hour day. Those that didn’t had been largely ladies, and so they stayed with their six-hour schedule till the mid-Nineteen Eighties.
Hunnicutt interviewed a number of Kellogg staff about why they returned to an extended workday. They indicated that the necessity for more cash would at all times outweigh the prospect of shorter hours, he stated. They had been now not prepared to commerce larger pay for much less time on the job.
“The necessity for more cash grew to become absolute,” Hunnicutt stated. “Leisure was devalued, now not a standard good, now not part of progress.”
Right now, after all, the time-money tradeoff is simply as related for working adults, however with a brand new twist: The Covid pandemic modified individuals’s minds about simply how consuming work must be, relative to different vital elements of their lives, like time with household.
Like many labor consultants, Hunnicutt wonders if Gen Z and Millennial workers would possibly make totally different decisions than these of earlier generations.
“The expertise of the pandemic struck some chords,” Hunnicutt stated. “There may be a approach to dwell my life extra totally and do my job on the identical time. It’s on the desk once more.”