Today it is standard to have eight-hour workdays. Thanks to the union movement this has been determined and is the custom rule at most workplaces. The work norm is now eight-hour workdays, five days a week. This has not been easy, it has been a long struggle for the Union, that started in the middle of the 19th century.
Eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement as it was called was a people’s movement that started with industrialisation in Great Britain with all the demands on increased production and more workers. Before it was acknowledged, a workday could be between ten to sixteen hours for six days a week. Robert Owen was a pioneer in the area and started experimenting on schedules and working hours and implementing shift planning. He implemented the ten-hour workday in his factories in 1810 and just seven years later he had a proposal on how a day should look for a worker. It should contain of eight hours rest, eight hours of work and eight hours of recreation. This was discussed at the congress of the International workers organization 1866.
Different Starts Around the World
The eight-hour workday got a breakthrough throughout the world in the later part of the 19th century. There is a difference in time on when different countries established it. In most parts of Europe, it happened between 1910 and 1920. Four days after the big October revolution in Russia there was a decree from the government that eight-hour workdays were to be determined. In North America it came a bit faster due to President Ulysses Grant issued a National Eight Hour Law Proclamation. The time for this was May 1869.
Union Work in the USA
It took about 17 years before everything was ready to start and run properly. In the 1870s, unions around America were working to get the eight-hour workday determined. Through demonstrations and parades and a strike of hundreds of thousands of people in New York and made it reality in 1872. It took up to 1884 when the Federation of Organized Trades and Labour Unions decided at their congress that from May 1st 1886, eight-hour workday shall be a right. They encouraged the worker organisations to make it possible. Other Unions in America also managed to make this a reality in the following decade. Of course, there were trouble between unions and employers but nothing they couldn´t manage.
Forty-Hour Week Convention
In 1935, the International Labour Organization, ILO, had a conference in Geneva where they agreed on the Forty-Hour Week Convention that was suggested. It should take a long time before it would be reality after this before it was in action, actually all the way to June 23rd in 1957. It had been almost nine decades since President Grant suggested the eight-hour week. For countries in the ILO it was now a time for administration of the process while governments in each company made the ratifications with ILO.
40-hour Week Purpose
When industrialization increased, you could see an increase in unemployment as well. To manage this problem, the Unions tried to get the employers to lessen work hours for the employed to make it possible for more people to get work and unemployment would decrease. There are lots of aspects to this. One is that it would increase quality of life both for those that get a lesser workload and for those that would get a job.