40 Hour work week

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To the left, everything is about community organizing and their protests and self-righteous indignation. To the informed, those tantrums usually came late after the cultural tide was shifting and the Jonny-come-lately's did little but try to take credit for the success of others. Like Henry Ford (Capitalism) standardized on the 40 hour work-week, most others had adopted it, and then the Federal Government created a regulation that said we should adopt it for the very few remaining and took credit for something that was already done. Then the leftist media (like NBC) repeats the lie, and the gullible gobble it up. Thanks Unions for riding on the coat tails of others.

Issue Lie Truth
40 Hour work week Unions gave us the 40 hour work week. Henry Ford (Capitalism) standardized on the 40 hour work-week, most others had adopted it, and then the Federal Government created a regulation (FLSA) that said we should adopt the 44 hour work week for the very few remaining.
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Capitalism and industrialization gave us the productivity gains, which made the 40 hour work week possible and the trend had been happening for generations before Ford had standardized on it in 1914 (without strikes or unions, he did it to attract the best labor).

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 by FDR was mostly unneeded by the time it was passed as far as the 44 hour work week it mandated -- and it only applied to less than 20% of all workers. But the goal there was not to help workers as much as it was to reduce productivity so that companies had to hire more workers (and focus on child labor laws) -- and it also set the minimum wage, which defeated it's intended purpose and increased unemployment.

When economists and historians were surveyed, 88% of them either agreed or mostly agreed with the proposition that economic growth – NOT Unions – was to thank for our reduced workweek. In fact, only 5-6% thought that unions were the primary cause.[1] While that isn't definitive proof, it does show that the informed disagree with the left on this.

  • In 1790 about 90% of workers worked in agriculture, and 40 hours of labor a week generally wasn't productive enough to feed a family. So if the Government had mandated 40 hours, people would have ignored it or starved to death. [2]
  • By 1990 only 2.6% of the labor force was working in Farming [3]. This wasn't because of government regulations but increases in productivity offered by capitalism and automation.
  • As people moved to manufacturing (industrialization),hours decreased. The average industrial workweek declined from approximately 70 hours in 1830 to about 60 hours by 1890, before there were Unions. [4]
  • It wasn't government but steam power that resulted in productivity gains, that enabled us to reduce hours. 2006 NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) study concluded, “Controlling for firm size, location, industry, and other establishment characteristics, steam powered establishments had higher labor productivity than establishments using hand or animal power, or water power. ...The diffusion of steam power was an important factor behind the growth of labor productivity, accounting for 22 to 41 percent of that growth between 1850 and 1880..." [5]
  • Workweek hours declined from around 55-60 hours to only 35-40 hours by 1938. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was essentially unnecessary in establishing a 40 hour workweek as the standard.[6]

So Unions successfully lobbied congress in 1938 to give them what capitalism had already given us. And the naive and misinformed believe that it was Unions that did it. Those who glanced at the data know otherwise. [7]

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