Economic Myths: The 5 Day Work Week And The 8 Hour Day

How many times have you been in an economic discussion with someone, discussing the benefits of competition, the power of markets, and the overall benefits of capitalism when someone blurts out that in any competitive system, unions and regulations are necessary, for without them, without their interference, we wouldn’t have a middle class, we wouldn’t have a five day work week or eight hour work days? I hear this all the time, I see it on bumper stickers, and it is so often repeated that I thought I’d blog on it and give the readers of my blog an edge on what really happened, and how to respond if they encounter the same topic.

So, who gave us the 5 day, 8 hours per day, work week? Was it really the unions, was it really higher regulations? No, the historical answer is that it was Heny Ford who gave us the 5 day, 8 hours per day, work week. Ford was tired of continuously losing good employees, he was trying to increase employee retention and at the same time increase profits, so he basically doubled wages and implemented a 5-day work week, and in the process effectively invented the modern weekend. It is Henry Ford who is widely credited with contributing to the creation of a middle class in the United States.

In addition, if you look at why Henry Ford did this, you will see that his reasons had nothing to do with charity, and everything to do with increasing profits and dealing with the forces of competition.

What makes those who believe it was unions look even more ridiculous is the fact that Henry Ford despised unions. The tensions were so strong, that Ford hired a former Navy boxer to help him stop the unions from unionizing Ford Motor Company.

Many of those who hold the view that it was unions – or regulations – who gave us the middle class, often hold outdated fears against ‘unfettered markets’, still repeating the now fully debunked Karl Marx view that capitalism, through competition, will bring exploitation of workers, will be a ‘race to the bottom’, and will eventually, atleast according to Marx, result in class warfare blah blah blah blah. However, if you come back to the real world, you will see that competition does the exact opposite, it increases the standard of living, it increases working standards, it increases pay, and it is overall the working person’s best weapon, not its enemy. This is why unions and the minimum wage have the opposite result, since by reducing competition they don’t make the working person’s standard of living better; on net balance, they make it worse.

So in conclusion, it wasn’t because of unions or regulations that we have a middle class, it was in spite of them that we do, and the next time you hear otherwise, correct them immediately, the working class will thank you.

51 Responses to “Economic Myths: The 5 Day Work Week And The 8 Hour Day”


  • …he was the exception to the rule though (or is it the exception not the rule?). Anyhow, you didn’t mention the kids he employed :)

  • Whether he was the exception or the norm, it remains a fact that he did it based on market pressure, not good will (he was, afterall, anti-Semitic and a supporter of Hitler).

    Also, child labor was outlawed in the late 1930′s, which is, again, one of the benefits of a capitalistic society, since, it is primarily capitalistic societies that have the luxery of banning child labor.

    • I find such arguments close to meaningless, in that person A asserts a given effect which does indeed exist in the real world, and person B asserts a contrary effect likewise, and absent quantitative comparison both consider their thesis proven. For example, you can show that seatbelts sometimes save lives, and you can show that seatbelts sometimes cost lives. Absent some quantification, the pro and con side would remain unproductively stuck forever arguing; they might as well be arguing about the angels on the head of a pin. In this case one side can hypothesize why unions are bad (or good) based on “what makes intuitive sense to them”, and the other side is not convinced because they don’t share the same assumptions, and there are no objective criteria. So HP can just assert that one man converted the entire world workforce (it was not just a US movement) through his hiring practice in one large company which was still a miniscule part of the overall economy. So Henry Ford having a 5 day workweek presumably caused the employers of female oyster shucker a thousand miles away to change their work week to 5 days so all their employees didn’t flock to Henry’s factories instead. In a fuzzy minded non-quantitative world, that might seem to make sense to those with the appropriate confirmation biases, but any rational economist would laugh at that argument when when he did the numbers – whether or not he liked unions. In a recent poll, 17% of Republicans thought Mitt Romney was more responsible for the killing of Osama Bin Laden than Barack Obama. They can hold such an obviously counterfactual belief because it has a non-rational payoff. Believing that Henry Ford’s practices created the worldwide shift in work schedules is not that different – the payoff of “believing” such a myth is not increased comprehension of a complex multi-factoral world, but the comfort of supporting a predetermined conclusion, like unions are bad and unnecessary. Henry may have been one factor among many, but not the dominant one, if you look at the picture objectively.

      • Henry Ford is obviously not solely responsible for the 40 hour workweek. Advances in technology, living standards, and wages brought it about naturally…you know the free market. For most people and most employers, it just wasn’t necessary to toil away for any longer. If you have some evidence that links unions to negotiating the weekend and the 40 hour work week, and for all I know some exists, I’d love for it to be presented so that they can be congratulated on their contribution

      • Wow. That might be the most lucid comment on any website topic of discussion I have ever read. Truly food for thought.

    • It was not his magnanamous giving personality that he devised the 5 day work week and IT WAS the UNION that FORCED him to AGREE to it. He murdered 37 striking workers with a hail of gunfire from the same murderous thug you idolize in your blog. It was the PUBLIC PRESSURE brought to bear that FORCED Henry Ford to accept the idea of a 5 day week cionsisting of 8 hour days. It was after this that he began to develop his city in the jungles of Brazil to move all his production to and there set up his own fiefdom to assure there would be no more UNION at Ford. Fordlandia was a total failure just as your misguided blog is.

    • I agree with all of your assertions about Henry Ford and his well-documented hatred of both Jews and unions, but you start your article incorrectly in citing that he started the 5 day work week. Malcolm Gray, Rochester Can Company Owner, started the 5 day work week in January 1922. Later that year, after citations about the 5 day work week in publications such as the NY Times, Henry Ford visited Gray’s company and noted the increase in productivity that had resulted and adopted it for his factories.

      Ford’s adoption gave national impetus to the five day work week and for that, motives aside, he should be credited. But you need to correct the basis of your article in the first place. There’s plenty to both praise and criticize Henry Ford for without contributing further to an incorrect view of history.

  • Well, needless to say I do NOT agree with your conclusion – “So in conclusion, it wasn’t because of unions or regulations that we have a middle class, it was in spite of them that we do, and the next time you hear otherwise, correct them immediately, the working class will thank you.” Let me give you an example – I have a cousin that works on the line at a Ford plant. She probably makes about $22 an hour and pays at least $20 for health coverage for the whole family. The last contract the UAW negotitated she received a yearly raise and a bonus if sales were up in the 4th qtr. Now I’ll give you the example of my cousin. Currently works for a CONTRACT company @ a auto-supplier office. These contract companies have sprung up due to the fact that companies want to save money by not hiring workers directly. The majority of these auto suppliers will either hire those with a HB-1 visa, send work to another country or hire a contract worker. My cousin has been lucky to still have a job. However, it’s been five years since he’s seen a raise and has to pay about $140 a week for health insurance. Who do you think has a better view of the middle class? Due to those unions other industries have benefited in the area. When you take away those jobs from the area the economy suffers.

    • Anecdotes abound from both sides of the issue. My brother works in the industrial HVAC industry in California. He is required to be a member of the union in order to keep his job. His health coverage is based on how many hours he works per month, if he falls below a certain amount of hours worked then there is no coverage for that month. The non-union administrative and sales staff don’t have the same caveat for their health coverage.

  • Well that is exactly my point, unions on net balance take away jobs from the area, and the economy and the poor do suffer.

    Nobody is arguing that unions don’t benefit anyone. They certainly benefit those in the union, and especially those with the highest seniority. But that is not all to the story, unions, by making labor costs more expensive, also reduce the total amount of employment out there in the market. So they directly hurt those poor workers who are not in the union and who are usually much poorer than union workers. This is how economist Milton Friedman explained it,

    “If unions raise wage rates in a particular occupation or industry, they necessarily make the amount of employment available in that occupation or industry less than it otherwise would be — just as any higher price cuts down the amount purchased. The effect is an increased number of persons seeking other jobs, which forces down wages in other occupations. Since unions have generally been strongest among groups that would have been high-paid anyway, their effect has been to make high-paid workers higher paid at the expense of lower-paid workers. Unions have therefore not only harmed the public at large and workers as a whole by distorting the use of labor; they have also made the incomes of the working class more unequal by reducing the opportunities available to the most disadvantaged workers”. — Milton Friedman in “Capitalism And Freedom

    So on net balance unions are bad. In other words, unions – not the market – help create circumstances like the one your cousin at a contract company is in.

    And all of this without even counting all of the other costs that unions inflict primarily on the poor, things like reducing the competitive edge of companies to compete with others (just look at the Wal-Mart versus Ralphs debates), force companies to artificially raise prices on goods (an act that primarily hurts poor people), increase unemployment (another act that hurts the poor), and, something often overlooked, create incentives for companies to go overseas.

    Just take the example you gave, do you honestly think unions have been good for Ford? Ford has been losing business, year after year, to companies like Toyota and others, companies that have a much more direct labor cost. In addition, Ford has been closing plants every few years or so. This is not unique to Ford either, just look at the loss all private industries where union representation is high are taking, for example, the airline industry.

    In addition, just look at parts of the country that have high union representation, and you will see, almost one to one, areas where growth is stagnant, where companies don’t want to go because of the high labor costs, and it is unions that artificially increase those labor costs.

    All in all, this primarily hurts the poor. The rich CEO’s and managers of all of these companies will easily find a job somewhere else, but the reduction in employment, the loss of factories, the higher prices on goods, and the overall environment of joblessness that the unions create, is something that directly hits the poor where it hurts them most, in their pocket book. So instead of having one forklift operator earning a six-figure income, we could have, maybe three forklift operators earning, maybe 40K/year, and with that a company that is more competitive, and an environment that is more conducive to more employment, and cheaper products for others etc.etc…

    There are really only two ways to increase the wages of labor, and these methods are mutually exclusive. There is the conservative free-market approach, which focuses on increasing competition, and than there is the regulation, pro-minimum wage, pro-union liberal approach, which tries to artificially increase the wages of labor, but in the end, reduces competition. I support, and history has shown to be superior, the free-market competitive approach.

    • Thinkingoutloud

      Your argument regarding forklift operators (one with a six figure income vs. 3 at 40k per year) is a great argument FOR THE COMPANY. For the forklift operator, however, it is not that great of an argument, especially if said forklift operator (now earning 40k per year) is trying to support a family of – let’s say four people in a relatively urban environment.

      That 40k may be all fine and good for the forklift operator who is working at a plant in the middle of East Texas or out in Despair Idaho where 40k per year can support four people; where the cost of living is low, but if they are trying to make ends meet on 40K a year in most any urban area (let’s say NYC, DC or Los Angeles) where it takes double that just to make ends meet, then they may run into some problems.

      Of course if your focus is the economy – and how well a company’s quarterly profits look, then of course this will not be important to you. But if you ARE that forklift operator, it will make a very big difference indeed.

      You can argue till you’re blue in the face that by making the decision to employ three forklift operators as opposed to one that you are HELPING the economy, that the benefits of cutting costs will eventually ‘trickle down’ to them through lowered costs of products etc. But if they can’t afford to buy those products because they are having to spend every penny of an insufficient paycheck on necessities the argument is invalid.

      These kinds of arguments are why unions EXIST. To ensure that the workers get a fair shake. That they get the kind of living wage that will enable them to provide for themselves and their families without having to choose to discontinue their health care in order to pay for their mortgage.

    • “But that is not all to the story, unions, by making labor costs more expensive, also reduce the total amount of employment out there in the market.”

      That is patently untrue. Most corporations at least attempt to operate at a profit, which means they are paying significantly less for the labor than they earn from having it. For the vast, vast majority of corporations both now and throughout history, a raise in the cost of labor only means a slight dip in profitability and precisely the same demand for labor, because the demand for their product has remained the same (or possibly even gone up with the increase in consumer wages). Demand for labor will only drop when demand for their good drops or when labor is so expensive that it prohibits any profit from being made.

      This is true because for the most part, the profits go out to shareholders. They don’t generally care very much if they make 3 cents per share less this year than last year, because they’re still making an incredible amount of money to do nothing but have money tied up in the company. As long as the shares don’t lose money, shareholders aren’t too likely to notice slight dips in gain rates, and certainly aren’t going to sell off their shares over it. I’m sorry but never in your life has our economy been even remotely close to the point that increasing labor costs would take even a single job out of the economy.

  • Henry ford was an antisemite who helped build the Nazi war machine. Oh and he was down with Hitler. See for yourself.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ford#Anti-Semitism_and_The_Dearborn_Independent

  • Hey Nebur,

    I know, I mentioned that above, in comment #2.

    Which further proves my point, this guy did not do this because he was a kind hearted person who was following some ‘social responsibility’, he did it in response to market pressures, market pressures that work on everybody else just as much, and could even push an evil, anti-semite, hitler sympathizer like Ford to create the middle class.

  • i, i think i agree with you on this one hp. i don’t like unions because as you quoted above:

    “Unions have generally been strongest among groups that would have been high-paid anyway, their effect has been to make high-paid workers higher paid at the expense of lower-paid workers.”

    i couldn’t have said it better.

    i was a teamster for a brief period in my life. i always felt like it should have been an option not a work requirement. it was also easy to dislike them when they looted my wages every payday–for that alone i should have seen more leadership that was representative of me. the money they took could have paid my books for a semester or two.

  • Irasali,

    It’s interesting you bring that up, my dad has been a member of a union for more than 20 years. He works off of the port in Long Beach. He has no option in the matter either, since everybody that works on the port must be a member of the union, by union policy.

    My dad is around 55 years old, he doesn’t speak english very well, is an immigrant to this country, is ‘brown’, and has no education except for the few classes he took for his training, and even he tells me that unions are bad. He always tells me, “están para la gente huevona”, yet my dad fits the profile perfectly, of someone who one would think needs unions the most.

    But like he said, if you’re a hard worker, you don’t much need unions anyway, since the company already has an incentive to keep you on.

  • I think we need unions…yeah they’re corrupt and they really just pocket your money…but the working class also needs a lobbying group that will kinda watch out for them.

  • Most of the middle class lives just fine without unions, remember, less than 8% of the private industry has union representation.

    In addition, if you look at areas where the middle class does have problems, as I mentioned above, they are primarily areas where union represention is high. Just look at the auto industry or the airline industry to see what I am talking about.

    With that said, I don’t think unions are completely worthless, there are some things unions would be good at doing, and they do help in certain very limited circumstances. I just think they are not the good everybody makes them out to be.

  • Wow This kind of thinking is what has this country in such a mess.Walmart? Walmart is hurting this country! Buying product overseas .Putting Americans out of jobs.Not to mention the lead and God only knows what else in their products.I wish walmart would become unionized.They pay their employee’s nothing.And hey wow if your there 10,15 years you might become a manager and make what?OH way below poverty level!

    I do agree union paid employees do raise company cost.But shouldn’t we get a little bigger piece of the pie.Instead of working for walmart making them millions and getting paid 7.50 an hour?

    The company I work for is union.Guess how they are cutting cost? On excessive management.Who still make twice as much as us hourly employees.We make a great product.We take pride in our work.unlike overseas company he treat there people like they are not human.How well would make something being treated like a work horse and getting paid nothing?

    It’s time for America to take a stand and buy what we make even if it cost a couple more dollars.Unions help make sure we get a little more of the that back.

  • Yeah, we all can see what unions are doing to GM and Ford….

  • I think you overstate your case given your dependence on one example. I’m not as familiar with the USofA, but if you look at what happened in many other companies, it was clearly the power of people unifying that changed working conditions.

    Strikes in Toronto led to the legalizing of unions in Canada, and after that point they succeeded in reducing the work hours to 6days*9hours, and later added things like employment insurance and universal health insurance.

    Without the time of social forces unions brought (whether it was actually unions or not) children were the cheap workers instead of third world nations. People were whipped and beaten if they didn’t make quota.

    I really don’t like 90% of what unions do today, but historically they were necessary when our politics was run by a few elitist rich men.

    In answer to the “if you work hard, there will always be work for you,” line—that’s great if your health lasts. Most employers would still fire someone who got hurt at work if it wasn’t illegal—after all they can’t afford to pay someone who isn’t working.

    Personally, however, I don’t understand the requirement to join a union—it’s completely undemocratic. I think that you should have the choice to opt out of a union, and I think that unions should not have a monopoly—if 30% of the workers join one union, and 40% join another and 30% opt out, that should be fine. It will make for chaos during contract talks, but eventually people will either get behind the more effective union or get rid of it altogether.

    If you opt out, though you should not automatically benefit from union contracts—you should have to set up your own contracts with your employer. Obviously, one of your arguments can be—”if you don’t treat me well I’ll go join the union.”

  • Can you please read Karl Marx’s Capital…I am so sick and tired of people saying they have an understanding of Marx by just reading the Communist Manifesto … guess what he wrote another text where he refines his argument and shows his admiration of capitalism but also its pitfalls. I know if is a big text (volume 1 over 1000 pages) but since you seem so interested in Marx and capitalism maybe you should check this work out. Also, think abut re-reading Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, I think you missed some of his points.

  • If you believe in milton friedman you should read the shock doctrine by naomi klein. i think you will see that miltons extreme views are very harmfull to the middle class.

  • Melissa,

    Did you actually believe alot of what Naomi Klein wrote about Milton Friedman? Have you ever read Milton Friedman? Because anybody with even a cursory knowledge of the guy knows it was a gross misrepresentation. See this review of the book, for example.

    Don’t trust its economics either. For example, even liberal economist Dani Rodrik says the book is garbage…see here.

  • PeterTheNotSoGreat

    You seem to forget that it was Ford’s bad management decisions that have caused it to become uncompetitive with other automobile companies like Toyota. A case in point is Ford’s recent decision to hire back laid off workers because they are going to increase the production of those gas guzzler F=150 pickup trucks (seems like some of us are addicted to these monsters no matter what). But this is just one example of how American companies have traded long term profitability for short term gains which in turn translates into lost jobs. Sure, eventually bad CEOs get replaced but unfortunately mostly after they have run down perfectly good companies down to the ground.

  • Wow, so that is how we got the five day slave 8 hour work week. Ford is both evil and a genius. I’m sure he is down with the masonic order. I can understand why most americans what to go into an independent business for themselves. Who wants to slave their life away for corporations collecting off their souls to make themselves more rich. I truly understand now that if you love what you do and make a living off of it you will gain true prosperity. If you are only working for money like most people do, then your prosperity is a pipe-dream.

  • Well, did you also know that Henry Ford paid his employees double and cut their work day from 9 hours to 8 hours, so they could spend more time with their families.

  • I just ran across this thread. I will say that it is interesting but narrow minded. What I conclude is that Ford, for fear of unions in his workforce, did “right” by his employees. So if it wasn’t for unions, he never would’ve done what he did.

    I believe that unions are good for society but I can honestly say that sometimes they aren’t needed. This is rarely the case though because employers will always try to squeeze the maximum amount of profit that they can. In-N-Out Burger does not employ unionized labor. But they treat their employees so much better than other fast food chains that their employees have no reason to unionize. They pay 4 dollars higher than minimum wage, even when minimum wage goes up. They offer better employee perks. Is it no wonder that they have happier employees and the employees stay longer? Is it coincidence that they put out a consistently better product? And that they are nationally recognized as one of the top 3 best burgers in the nation and fast food chains to work for in the country (even though they primarily just in the west coast)? Yes, they could make more money if they paid their employees less. They could make more money if they franchised. But why? They’re successful. How much more money could they need? They’re a good example of a ‘socialist capitalist’ if you could ever find one.

    Unfortunately, most employers aren’t like them. If not regulated, they will run amok and exploit until they no longer can. Ask yourself what came first… the bad employer or the bad employee? (Think about slavery, lords and subjects, indentured service, etc…) This is why we need unions. They are not perfect but they’re better. The question isn’t how to we get rid of them is how do we make them better when they start to show signs of not being run right.

    I read about your dads accomplishments. He deserves credit. But you remind me of those people who say, “I did it! Why can’t you!?” You’re doing something very typical, you’re blaming the victim. Be proud of what your dad has done, but understand that not everyone might have had his circumstances. Good or bad. I invite you to read Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, Blaming the Victim by William Ryan, Literacy With An Attitude by Patrick Finn and Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum.

    Thanks for reading…

  • Daniel,

    If it was because of union pressure, than why didn’t other already unionized companies do it first?

  • Is it no wonder that they have happier employees and the employees stay longer? Is it coincidence that they put out a consistently better product?

    This statement is not complete. The reason In N Out has to pay above minimum wages is the same reason that McDonalds has to pay close to minimum wages: economic pressure. Let me explain.

    You see, In N Out caters to a different market than McDonalds. The customers of In N Out are wealthier (after all, their burgers are 3x more expensive than McDonalds burgers), more health conscious and less diverse. So if In N Out hired the same workers that McDonalds does, they would suffer in customer satisfaction.

    McDonalds, on the other hand, caters to a much poorer, less health conscious and more diverse segment of the population. If they paid their workers more, and say, Burger King didn’t, Burger King would then be able to offer lower priced Cheeseburgers and steal customers from McDonalds. In N Out customers, on the other hand, are less cost sensitive.

    Comparing In N Out to McDonalds is like comparing the Hilton Hotel to Motel 6. Of course the employees of Hilton Hotels are better paid than the employees of Motel 6 – but this doesn’t tell the full picture. Hilton Hotels also charges alot more than Motel 6 – thereby harming the poor.

    You’re argument in favor of Hilton Hotels over Motel 6′s (or In N Out over McDonalds), from a basic economic understanding, is an argument that there should be no Motel 6′s – everything should be at Hilton hotel levels. But then would having to pay atleast 50% more for hotels really be better off for the poor? I certainly don’t think so.

    • sorry Hispanic pundit but you couldn’t be more wrong . OBviously you have not done any reasearch into labor history or you would be familiar with a long history of events such as the HOMESTEAD riots where privately funded security (Pinkertons ) opened fire on striking workers .
      Also you must also be unaware of all the studies being put out by the government and spread by groups like the occupy movement . These studies clearly show a shrinking middle class and a ditribution of wealth wherein the workers of the USA have steadily lost their percentage of income gained from increased worker productivity . A statistic you may be unaware of : in the 50′s the average CEO made about 20X what the average worker made (avergae worker not bottom line worker ) Now that percentage is over 380x (some studies put it at above 400x). Obviously you have not done your homeworkd here . A simple wikipedia scan shows The first five-day work week in America was instituted by a New England cotton mill to afford Jewish workers the ability to adhere to their own religious Sabbath. [1]

      In 1926 Henry Ford began shutting down his automotive factories for all of Saturday and Sunday. In 1929 the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America was the first union to demand a five-day work week and receive it. After that, the rest of the United States slowly followed, but it was not until 1940 that the two-day weekend began nationwide.[
      SO Ford was not the first to give his workers a 40 hr/ 5day work week and since it took mre than a decade to spread countrywide it is probably unfair to give the credit to him . Unions are very good at fighting to increase productivity while at the same time increasing safety . This benefits the industry they are a part of and the buisnesses themselves . Now I am not currently a union member but I was one for more than 13 years . Unions get a bad rap in large part because their members for the most part do not take the time to investigate everything that they do in advocacy for their membership. Most unions negotiate contracts for months sometimes years before their contracts end . Do you really think most independent workers would have the time, effort, training and or legal representation to defend themselves as well as their union can or for that matter that any buisness would have the time or care to devote the resouces to negotiate a single contract for each of its employees, of course not.
      As for your father I would wager that he hasn’t worked that same job in a nonunion situation . The truth of the matter is that , more often than not, worker recieve better safety, wages and benefits when they are unioinised even when you deduct their dues from their salary . Most large buisnesses take the standpoint how little can the get away with giving their employess . They often weed out older employees on a regular basis so that they can pay younger employees lower wages for the same workload . They often keep a much larger % of employees on as part timers only as a way to save costs on emplyee benefits . They ignore quality of life issuses and in doing so lose productivity in thier employees and as well as drive up the costs of said benefit programs .

  • An eight hour work day was something that originated with unions and was fought for aggressively by unions for a long time. Reading your post here you’d think it was Ford’s idea. Not true. He implemented it after long struggle by unions. And the consequences have been great.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-hour_day#United_States

    Seems to me that the facts do tend to contradict neoliberal theory. Here’s another one for you. Increases in minimum wage by the government do not cause additional unemployment amongst the poor, but do lead to real income gains and reduced employee turnover. Again a regulation imposed by the government and resisted by the corporate interests in fact is beneficial for all parties.

    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/01/along-the-minimum-wage-battle-front/

  • It might not have been Ford’s idea, but he was the first to implement it. Unions at the time supported everything from the minimum wage to communism, so to give them credit for this is a stretch.

    After all, why was a union hating Ford the first to implement it, not a union run company? If it works, the market will adapt it.

    Regarding minimum wage, have you read my post on it? See here. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

  • Regarding your link, there are many factors to keep in mind:

    1. The minimum wage is historically low. What many economists believe is that a small raise in today’s minimum wage will have little to no impact on employment. But this is different than saying a meaningful raise in the minimum wage will have no impact.

    For example, say that we have a minimum wage of $0.25/hour. Clearly, that minimum wage would be meaningless. Few would work at such a wage, except maybe those who are compensated by other factors (tips, for example – where its the “other factors” that matters more). So a raise from $0.25 to say $0.50, wouldnt have much of an impact on unemployment. The wage is still far below historical standards.

    But thats a big difference than saying a jump from $5 to $10 an hour wouldnt have a noticeable affect on employment.

    2. The main study in support of the minimum wage, the Card-Krueger study, contradicts later research by the same economists. See here.

    3. Surveys of economists (see here) still shows a majority support the view that increasing the minimum wage harms unemployment. Which is remarkable, considering that A) the minimum wage is at a historical low (even at this low level, more economists believe that it harms employment than do not) and B) most economists entered the field assuming the minimum wage does not harm employment (as is shown by polls of the average joe).

    4. All of this ignores my main complaint with the minimum wage: the minority connection. Which is why I wrote the blog in my previous comment.

    5. Lastly, its important to keep in mind who the minimum wage DOES help: unions and high income areas like California, New York and New England. So the politics of the minimum wage is easy.

  • If you check the wiki link I sent you’ll see that Ford was not the first to implement it. Perhaps he was the largest to have implemented it when he did, but he was not the first.

    Unions fought and bled for an 8 hour day among other things. This was a long struggle, and a successful one. I don’t see you giving them any credit, which to me they clearly deserve. So does Ford. I will give him credit too. But without the union organization this wouldn’t have happened. It’s not something that would have reached Ford’s consciousness without the long union struggle.

    I’ll look over your other links and respond later.

  • Jon,

    If minimum wage laws produce real income gains and reduced employee turnover, why stop at $7 an hour? Why not raise the minimum wage to $10, maybe even $20 an hour?

    Minimum wage increases may produce income gains for the people who already have jobs (if managers don’t compensate for the increase by cutting workers’ hours) but may also take away money that could’ve been used to hire additional workers. Such increases stifle opportunities for the unemployed, most of whom have little to no marketable skills, not much education beyond a high school diploma and little work experience to speak of. You think highly skilled, experienced workers make up the vast majority of the unemployed? It’s mostly people whose productivity barely justifies the $7 hourly pay the government forces businesses to pay.

    If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a half-truth about WalMart, I’d own the company.

  • INTOO, the fact is at the amount of minimum wage increase evaluated in the study the effects were very much positive. If you think going to $20 or $100 an hour would also be positive you’d have to try and and evaluate it. I doubt it would be positive. But that doesn’t mean the amounts evaluated in the study in fact weren’t positive.

    We live in a very non-free market country (if you are American). A major portion of the US economy is based on public funding. Commercial aviation, computers, the internet, lasers, shipping containers (a huge part of our economy). All developed at public expense. Today it’s nano technology among other things. This is a huge potential boon, and developed at public expense once again. The public pays the R&D, then hands the research off to private industry to reap the rewards. I happen to be an engineer that worked in defense for a long time. Now I’m out of that industry. But my salary is boosted by the huge government demand for engineers to develop defense related products. I benefit in a huge way from those non-free market forces, as does HP. I don’t see any tea partyers complaining about this.

    But when that same government subsidizing process attempts to do something that might benefit the poor, everyone gets all committed to the free market. Tough love and rugged individualism for them. Massive corporate bail outs and public subsidy for us rich, well educated people.

  • Hey Jon,

    Have you had a chance to read my minimum wage post above?

  • LearningEveryDay

    Hispanic Pundit!

    Stumbled on your blog. You are articulate, well researched and absolutely correct. Many have been fed so much nonsense that they cannot or will not understand the damage that unions do. I watched a company forced into bankruptcy by union demands — and the frightened helplessness of some very good workers as they watched the union leaders cause them all to be unemployed. In my experience, Unions are greedy entities who have outlived any usefulness as they do not operate for the good of Americans in general. Keep sharing the facts!!

  • Hey Hispanic Pundit!
    I,too, stumbled upon your blog when I Googled “Can Unions Take Credit For the 8-Hour workday?”.
    Your comments, and comments from your readers, will indeed give me something meaningful to say to those who are “Blind Followers” of the ‘Union Movement Preachers’ who don’t know what the facts are.

    I was President and CEO of 2 different companies(now retired) with Teamster’s employees. At each contract time I had to listen to their business agents spewing lies and exaggerations about the value and benefits of Unions and watched them try to justify their own existance at the expense of the company.

    Years after I left, one of those companies was forced to close it’s doors because it couldn’t compete. It was a perfect example of your analogy of ‘Hilton vs. Motel 6′.

    At my last job, I was able to get the Union out after 12 years of painstaking arguments regarding ‘the purpose of the unions vs. common sense’. Before the Union bowed out, I had a discussion with the Business Agent and he agreed that, by far, the best thing that management could do for its employees was to run a successful, and profitable business. To this day, those former teamsters are better off than ever before, especially in regard to health insurance and retirement benefits.

    Thanks for the ‘Ammunition’ for future arguments with friends and family.

  • United States

    In the United States, Philadelphia carpenters went on strike in 1791 for the ten-hour day. By the 1830s, this had become a general demand. In 1835, workers in Philadelphia organized a general strike, led by Irish coal heavers. Their banners read, From 6 to 6, ten hours work and two hours for meals. Labor movement publications called for an eight-hour day as early as 1836. Boston ship carpenters, although not unionized, achieved an eight-hour day in 1842.

    In 1864, the eight-hour day quickly became a central demand of the Chicago labor movement. The Illinois legislature passed a law in early 1867 granting an eight-hour day but had so many loopholes that it was largely ineffective. A city-wide strike that began on May 1, 1867 shut down the city’s economy for a week before collapsing. On June 25, 1868, Congress passed an eight-hour law for federal employees[3] which was also of limited effectiveness. (On May 19, 1869, Grant signed a National Eight Hour Law Proclamation.[4])

    In August 1866, the National Labor Union at Baltimore passed a resolution that said, “The first and great necessity of the present to free labour of this country from capitalist slavery, is the passing of a law by which eight hours shall be the normal working day in all States of the American Union. We are resolved to put forth all our strength until this glorious result is achieved.”

    During the 1870s, eight hours became a central demand, especially among labor organizers, with a network of Eight-Hour Leagues which held rallies and parades. A hundred thousand workers in New York City struck and won the eight-hour day in 1872, mostly for building trades workers. In Chicago, Albert Parsons became recording secretary of the Chicago Eight-Hour League in 1878, and was appointed a member of a national eight-hour committee in 1880.

    At its convention in Chicago in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions resolved that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour from and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labour organizations throughout this jurisdiction that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution by the time named.”

    The leadership of the Knights of Labor, under Terence V. Powderly, rejected appeals to join the movement as a whole, but many local Knights assemblies joined the strike call including Chicago, Cincinnati and Milwaukee. On May 1, 1886, Albert Parsons, head of the Chicago Knights of Labor, with his wife Lucy Parsons and two children, led 80,000 people down Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in what is regarded as the first modern May Day Parade, in support of the eight-hour day. In the next few days they were joined nationwide by 350,000 workers who went on strike at 1,200 factories, including 70,000 in Chicago, 45,000 in New York, 32,000 in Cincinnati, and additional thousands in other cities. Some workers gained shorter hours (eight or nine) with no reduction in pay; others accepted pay cuts with the reduction in hours.
    Artist impression of the bomb explosion in Haymarket Square

    On May 3, 1886, August Spies, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung (Workers Newspaper), spoke at a meeting of 6,000 workers, and afterwards many of them moved down the street to harass strikebreakers at the McCormick plant in Chicago. The police arrived, opened fire, and killed four people, wounding many more. At a subsequent rally on May 4 to protest this violence, a bomb exploded at the Haymarket Square. Hundreds of labour activists were rounded up and the prominent labour leaders arrested, tried, convicted, and executed giving the movement its first martyrs. On June 26, 1893 Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld set the remaining leader free, and granted full pardons to all those tried claiming they were innocent of the crime for which they had been tried and the hanged men had been the victims of “hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge”.

    The American Federation of Labor, meeting in St Louis in December 1888, set May 1, 1890 as the day that American workers should work no more than eight hours. The International Workingmen’s Association (Second International), meeting in Paris in 1889, endorsed the date for international demonstrations, thus starting the international tradition of May Day.

    The United Mine Workers won an eight-hour day in 1898.

    The Building Trades Council (BTC) of San Francisco, under the leadership of P.H. McCarthy, won the eight-hour day in 1900 when the BTC unilaterally declared that its members would work only eight hours a day for $3 a day. When the mill resisted, the BTC began organizing mill workers; the employers responded by locking out 8,000 employees throughout the Bay Area. The BTC, in return, established a union planing mill from which construction employers could obtain supplies — or face boycotts and sympathy strikes if they did not. The mill owners went to arbitration, where the union won the eight-hour day, a closed shop for all skilled workers, and an arbitration panel to resolve future disputes. In return, the union agreed to refuse to work with material produced by non-union planing mills or those that paid less than the Bay Area employers.

    By 1905, the eight-hour day was widely installed in the printing trades – see International Typographical Union (section) – but the vast majority of Americans worked 12-14 hour days.

    On January 5, 1914, the Ford Motor Company took the radical step of doubling pay to $5 a day and cut shifts from nine hours to eight, moves that were not popular with rival companies, although seeing the increase in Ford’s productivity, and a significant increase in profit margin (from $30 million to $60 million in two years), most soon followed suit.[5][6][7][8]

    In the summer of 1915, amid increased labor demand for World War I, a series of strikes demanding the eight-hour day began in Bridgeport, Connecticut. They were so successful that they spread throughout the Northeast.[9]

    The United States Adamson Act in 1916 established an eight-hour day, with additional pay for overtime, for railroad workers. This was the first federal law that regulated the hours of workers in private companies. The United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Act in Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332 (1917).

    The eight-hour day might have been realized for many working people in the U.S. in 1937, when what became the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S. Code Chapter 8) was first proposed under the New Deal. As enacted, the act applied to industries whose combined employment represented about twenty percent of the U.S. labor force. In those industries, it set the maximum workweek at 44 hours,[10] but provided that employees working beyond 40 hours a week would receive additional overtime bonus salaries.[11]

  • your conclusion is nonsense and unsupported by the evidence you provided. how did ford’s effort to stop unions work out?

  • Very good analysis…

    The central problem of labor unions is the degree to which they are able to wield coercive power over others… A voluntary association can serve the valuable purpose of providing a unitary voice for those with shared interests, but when such an association is involuntary, or when it is able to infringe on the liberty of others, it ceases to be a force for good… Whatever benefits unions are able to accrue for its members is necessarily taken from other categories of employees in the same industry or from other industries… Labor action cannot change the value of goods and services industry produces – it can only distort the wage remuneration for those it benefits, and only at the expense of others…

  • Henry Ford did give his employees an eight hour day and five day work week, because of the high turnover in his factory. Labor unions began the fight for a shorter work week and work day in the mid nineteenth century….it was not some innovation by Henry Ford. This policy was the exception, not the rule until twenty years later,after many demands and hard won victories by labor unions.

  • much happened before Ford followed the popular tide…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-hour_day

    In the United States, Philadelphia carpenters went on strike in 1791 for the ten-hour day. By the 1830s, this had become a general demand. In 1835, workers in Philadelphia organized a general strike, led by Irish coal heavers. Their banners read, From 6 to 6, ten hours work and two hours for meals. Labor movement publications called for an eight-hour day as early as 1836. Boston ship carpenters, although not unionized, achieved an eight-hour day in 1842.

    In 1864, the eight-hour day quickly became a central demand of the Chicago labor movement. The Illinois legislature passed a law in early 1867 granting an eight-hour day but had so many loopholes that it was largely ineffective. A city-wide strike that began on May 1, 1867 shut down the city’s economy for a week before collapsing. On June 25, 1868, Congress passed an eight-hour law for federal employees[4] which was also of limited effectiveness. (On May 19, 1869, Grant signed a National Eight Hour Law Proclamation.[5])

    In August 1866, the National Labor Union at Baltimore passed a resolution that said, “The first and great necessity of the present to free labour of this country from capitalist slavery, is the passing of a law by which eight hours shall be the normal working day in all States of the American Union. We are resolved to put forth all our strength until this glorious result is achieved.”

    During the 1870s, eight hours became a central demand, especially among labor organizers, with a network of Eight-Hour Leagues which held rallies and parades. A hundred thousand workers in New York City struck and won the eight-hour day in 1872, mostly for building trades workers. In Chicago, Albert Parsons became recording secretary of the Chicago Eight-Hour League in 1878, and was appointed a member of a national eight-hour committee in 1880.

    At its convention in Chicago in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions resolved that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour from and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labour organizations throughout this jurisdiction that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution by the time named.”

    The leadership of the Knights of Labor, under Terence V. Powderly, rejected appeals to join the movement as a whole, but many local Knights assemblies joined the strike call including Chicago, Cincinnati and Milwaukee. On May 1, 1886, Albert Parsons, head of the Chicago Knights of Labor, with his wife Lucy Parsons and two children, led 80,000 people down Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in what is regarded as the first modern May Day Parade, in support of the eight-hour day. In the next few days they were joined nationwide by 350,000 workers who went on strike at 1,200 factories, including 70,000 in Chicago, 45,000 in New York, 32,000 in Cincinnati, and additional thousands in other cities. Some workers gained shorter hours (eight or nine) with no reduction in pay; others accepted pay cuts with the reduction in hours.

    Artist impression of the bomb explosion in Haymarket Square
    On May 3, 1886, August Spies, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung (Workers Newspaper), spoke at a meeting of 6,000 workers, and afterwards many of them moved down the street to harass strikebreakers at the McCormick plant in Chicago. The police arrived, opened fire, and killed four people, wounding many more. At a subsequent rally on May 4 to protest this violence, a bomb exploded at the Haymarket Square. Hundreds of labour activists were rounded up and the prominent labour leaders arrested, tried, convicted, and executed giving the movement its first martyrs. On June 26, 1893 Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld set the remaining leader free, and granted full pardons to all those tried claiming they were innocent of the crime for which they had been tried and the hanged men had been the victims of “hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge”.

    The American Federation of Labor, meeting in St Louis in December 1888, set May 1, 1890 as the day that American workers should work no more than eight hours. The International Workingmen’s Association (Second International), meeting in Paris in 1889, endorsed the date for international demonstrations, thus starting the international tradition of May Day.

    The United Mine Workers won an eight-hour day in 1898.

    The Building Trades Council (BTC) of San Francisco, under the leadership of P.H. McCarthy, won the eight-hour day in 1900 when the BTC unilaterally declared that its members would work only eight hours a day for $3 a day. When the mill resisted, the BTC began organizing mill workers; the employers responded by locking out 8,000 employees throughout the Bay Area. The BTC, in return, established a union planing mill from which construction employers could obtain supplies — or face boycotts and sympathy strikes if they did not. The mill owners went to arbitration, where the union won the eight-hour day, a closed shop for all skilled workers, and an arbitration panel to resolve future disputes. In return, the union agreed to refuse to work with material produced by non-union planing mills or those that paid less than the Bay Area employers.

    By 1905, the eight-hour day was widely installed in the printing trades – see International Typographical Union (section) – but the vast majority of Americans worked 12-14 hour days.

    On January 5, 1914, the Ford Motor Company took the radical step of doubling pay to $5 a day and cut shifts from nine hours to eight, moves that were not popular with rival companies, although seeing the increase in Ford’s productivity, and a significant increase in profit margin (from $30 million to $60 million in two years), most soon followed suit.[6][7][8][9]

    In the summer of 1915, amid increased labor demand for World War I, a series of strikes demanding the eight-hour day began in Bridgeport, Connecticut. They were so successful that they spread throughout the Northeast.[10]

    The United States Adamson Act in 1916 established an eight-hour day, with additional pay for overtime, for railroad workers. This was the first federal law that regulated the hours of workers in private companies. The United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Act in Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332 (1917).

    The eight-hour day might have been realized for many working people in the U.S. in 1937, when what became the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S. Code Chapter 8) was first proposed under the New Deal. As enacted, the act applied to industries whose combined employment represented about twenty percent of the U.S. labor force. In those industries, it set the maximum workweek at 40 hours,[11] but provided that employees working beyond 40 hours a week would receive additional overtime bonus sala

  • It’s a myth that labor unions were the ones that created the middle-class and our 40-hour workweek. In reality it was a combination of the three government, labor unions, and business itself. In the late 1800s you had unions popping up, like the national label union and the knights of labor. Now these two organizations did fight for an eight-hour day, six days a week, many people where hurt during their rallies, and congress and business ignore them for the most part, there where areas that it did help like the coal miners but over all they did nothing for workers.

    On January 5, 1914, the Ford Motor Company took the steps of doubling pay to $5 a day and cut shifts from nine hours to eight along with having his workers only work 5 days a week, moves that were not popular with rival companies, although seeing the increase in Ford’s productivity, and a increase in profit margin from $30 million to $60 million in a two years period, most other company’s soon followed suit.

    The government passed its first law for rail road workers in 1916 which was know as the Adamson Act. This law was up haled by the supreme Court. Other presidents tried to get laws though Congress but were unsuccessful until FDR got the fair labor standards act passed in 1937. This law on the other hand was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. After FDR failed to “stack the deck” where Roosevelt tried to get justices that would be more friendly to his ways failed, he amended the law. The revision was upheld by the Supreme Court and is now a law that stands today; 40 hours a week, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, with time and a half of your base pay, for anything over eight hours a day and or 40 hours a week.

    So Like I said all three had a huge role, it was not just one organization that changed things.

  • It’s nice to see a Latino that isn’t parroting the socialist talking points! Also nice to see an intelligent Latino pointing out the obvious! Yes I too, am Latino, but you wouldn’t know that by my last name. I’m a product of a mixed heritage (Latina and Anglo father…), and I’m proud of where I came from.

  • All you have to do in order to argue with someone who supports labor unions as we know them today, is convince them that wealth can be created out of thin air. It’s easier than you think.

    People who support unions are under the notion that all of the wealth of the world has already been created. They believe that because some people have more wealth, the direct result is that other people have less. This “piece of the pie” mentality is ridiculous. Life is not a zero-sum game. Wealth can be created anywhere and everywhere. Many things we use everyday have been invented by people who have created success out of thin air, and for more people than just themselves. Television, the automobile, computers, airplanes. Each of these inventions (even independent of each other, mind you) created fortunes for those who invented them, as well as spawning massive industries and billions of jobs for people, and to go even further than that, have enriched society as a whole with the amazing everyday utility of the products themselves. These are obviously the most successful examples, but possibilities are limitless.

    The point is, if you don’t like your job, and you don’t like your boss paying you what he decides you’re worth; don’t cannibalize the business in order to get arbitrary pay raises and benefits via union coercion (anyone want a Twinkie?). Go out and do something on your own. Get another job, or better yet, go to school and learn a skill so that employers will compete for your services. Or start making your own “pie” by starting your own business. The way labor unions talk, they make it sound like underpaid or laid-off workers have no recourse whatsoever without them. But they do. It’s called the free market.

  • You need to re-read, or read for the first time, the history of labor in the US. The 8 hour day was old by the time Henry Ford was born. The first strikes and laws for 8 hour days go back to the 1700s – and they all come from the efforts of the labor movements. Henry Ford simply responded to competition for good workers – competition that only exists when workers unite to negotiate from strength. Individual workers can’t influence big corporations. Groups of workers can.

    I’ve never been in a union, by the way. I just live better because of the efforts of those who are in unions.

  • When some one searches for his vital thing, so he/she wants to be available that in detail,
    thus that thing is maintained over here.

Leave a Reply