The Implementation of the 40 Hour Work Week and What Led to It
It was not common for employees to work for 40 hours in a week. You will still have some workers who work for over 48 hours in a week with the set working hours being 40 hours, which is 8 hours a day for five days. The 40 hour work week did not come easy, and from below, you will learn more on what led to this.
In 1817, a Welsh manufacturer proposed a day to be divided into three equal 8-hour sections. The first part of the day would be for working, the other part would be for recreation, and the other would be for rest. Many of the nations in Europe did not like the idea, but later in the US, it gained popularity. Though the Congress passed the law, the employers turned a deaf ear to this.
In 1867, workers requested the Illinois Legislature to limit the working hours to 8 hours. Though this law was passed, you still could have those who would strike a deal with their bosses for longer working hours. a lot were not made happy by this idea, and it resulted to a strike in Chicago, IL on the 1st of May. In 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant, signed a deal that assured a stable wage and eight working hours for the government employees.
The 1870s and the 1880s had some action of the trade unions, and the labor organizations as they championed for the 8 work hours in a day and they could hold a strike each year on the 1st of May. In 1886, a strike was organized that caused deaths and injuries of both the police and the workers.
In the year 1914, we had the Ford Motor Company granting their workers 8 hours of work in a day with increased wages, but they stilled worked on Saturdays. They visited the homes of their workers to see if they deserved the increased wages. By 1916, we had more companies that accepted to reduce the working hours to 40 hours in a week. It thus led to a strike of 4 million American workers who had not received this right.
The General Motors Company still did not offer the 8 hours of work and a good wage for their workers in 1937. The working conditions were also poor. The working hours of the workers of the GMC were reduced when they went on a strike during the Great Depression.
President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act which brought the reduction on the working hours to 44 in 1938. In 1940, the FLSA was amended by the Congress to 40 working hours.