How the 40 Hour Work Week Came into Being
Many companies did not have their employees working for 40 hours in a week. Though we have those who work for 60-80 hours in a week at present, the stipulated hours should be 40 hours which translates to 8 hours each 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. One would be for working, the other one for recreation and the other one for rest. Many of the nations in Europe did not like the idea, but later in the US, it gained popularity. The Congress implemented the law, but the employers didn’t appreciate it.
A section of workers in Illinois requested the Legislature to reduce the working hours to 8 hours in a day in 1867. Though this law was passed, you still could have those who would strike a deal with their bosses for longer working hours. It made many agitated, and this led to a huge strike that took place in Chicago 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.
During the 1870s and the 1880s, the trade unions and the labor unions continued to advocate for the 40 working hours in a week, and they held national strikes each day on May 1st. In 1886, there was a strike with 300,000 people turning out and this led to injuries and deaths of the workers and the police in Chicago.
In 1914, the Ford Motor Company implemented the eight working hours a day and an increased wage, but the workers still worked for six days. This company could send people to evaluate the homes of their employees to see whether they deserved the better wages. By 1916, we had more companies that accepted to reduce the working hours to 40 hours in a week. 4 million Americans went on Strike for the push for 40 working hours.
Until 1937, the General Motors Company had not implemented the eight working hours and a stable wage for their workers. They had poor working conditions for their workers. 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.