A History of the Eight-Hour Work Day
Although many workers do not necessarily realize it, many of the major standards of workers’ rights are the result of long battles between labor organizations and employers. Historically, the fight for the eight-hour work day in particular took over a century of organized protest and resistance, eventually ending in a major victory for industrial and commercial goods workers. Now, the eight-hour day is considered a basic right among many blue-collar workers, as it is discussed along the same lines in legislation as overtime pay and child labor laws.
One of the earliest movements in America for the eight-hour work day was actually a push for a ten-hour day. The Industrial Revolution changed the way working conditions affected the average person, putting workers in twelve to sixteen-hour days. Eventually, workers decided that this much work was actually detrimental to employee productivity, and they demanded less intensive schedules. In 1791, carpenters in Philadelphia fought for and won a ten-hour work day. In roughly 40 years, this became a standard demand from workers, and the push for eight-hour days began in earnest.
By the mid-1800, labor movements across major industrial centers in the United States organized strikes and protests for better conditions, including an eight-hour day. These battles continued, winning the occasional fight over a certain industry in a city. Not until 1938, with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act, was the eight-hour day established as a right for commercial goods workers.
As a result of this law’s passage, an employer is not permitted to ask an employee to work more than eight hours each day without offer overtime pay. However, given the restrictions of the law, certain white-collar careers were not actually covered by the 1938 provisions, meaning that businesspeople may be asked to work over eight hours in some cases. If you would like to learn more about how the eight-hour work day and overtime pay disputes can be legally settled, contact an employment attorney.