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How the 40 Hour Work Week Came into Being

It was not common for employees to work for 40 hours in a week. Some workers still work for more hours from the one which is set which is 40 hours a week which when converted, will be 8 hours a day for five days of the week. 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. Many were not excited by this, and it led to a massive strike in Chicago on the 1st of May, and this spread to other nations in Europe. In 1869, the President, Ulysses S. Grant proclaimed a god wage for every worker and eight working hours a day.

In the 1870s and 1880s, we had the action of the labor organizations and trade unions who continued to push for the 40-hour working week, with a strike each year on the 1st of May. 300,000 people turned out for a strike in Chicago in 1886 which led to deaths and injuries of the workers and the police.

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. They had to do some evaluation of their workers’ homes to see if they were worth the increase in wage. 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. Workers went into a strike during the Great Depression workers went on strike which saw them reduce the working hours.

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.