Monday, March 11, 2013

Eight Hour Day

Ever wonder why we work an 8-hour work day? Surely someone, somewhere decided this is how we would order this part of our lives. Well, today’s the day it happened and we have the Australians to thank for it.

The setting: Skilled workers logged 58 hour  work-weeks (or longer) at 10 hours (or more) per day while shop-owners worked even longer. Child labor was typical, but not without caution (limiting work to 50 hours per week, and no work for children under the age of 13). Self-improvement, education, enjoying life, rest, worship were un-civil and unprofitable activities.The goal of the long hours: produce wealth for employers and taxes for the State. 

“On 18 August 1855 the Stonemasons‚ Society in Sydney issued an ultimatum to employers that in six months time, masons would only work an eight-hour day. However men working on the Holy Trinity Church in Argyle Cut, and on the Mariners‚ Church (an evangelical mission to seafarers, now an art gallery and cafĂ©) in Lower George Street (98-100 George Street), could not contain their enthusiasm and decided not to wait. They pre-emptively went on strike, won the eight-hour day, and celebrated with a victory dinner on 1 October 1855. In February 1856 the August (1855) ultimatum expired and six months to the day, Sydney stonemasons generally went after a reduction of hours on the eight-hour model. Their demand was opposed by employers, even though the masons made it clear they were prepared to take a reduction in wages proportionate to the reduced hours. The main opposition came from the builders engaged on construction of Tooths Brewery on Parramatta Road. Less than two weeks of strike action overcame that hindrance and the masons won in late February, early March, 1856.” source)

So, how did it come to America? “The National Labour Union at Baltimore in August 1866 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.’ At its convention in Chicago in 1884, the AFL (American Federation of Labour) resolved that ‘eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labour from and after 1 May, 1886, and that we recommend to labour organisations throughout this jurisdiction that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution by the time named.’"  (source)

Some still don’t get to clock in and out. Consider mothers--always on the clock, always on call--and expected to be proficient in areas men never consider. Regardless, God designed us to work and have rest. No matter who you are, God asks for one day out of all the others to focus on Him and rest. How are you doing with that?

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