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Wilson v. New

The Eight-hour Workday

With the growth of industrialization in the United States in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, workers began to demand shorter work hours to reduce incidence of injury from performing repetitive tasks. Advocates of shorter hours also argued that shorter hours coupled with higher wages would increase consumption and therefore help businesses and the economy expand, and that shorter hours would increase worker productivity. In the 1920s, Henry Ford became one of the first industrialists to adopt the eight-hour workday. In the 1930s, the National Industrial Recovery Act instituted a 40-hour work week, which essentially made the eight-hour workday law until overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1935. However, most businesses had accepted the economic and productivity arguments for the shorter workday by then.

During the second half of the twentieth century, the workday remained around eight hours. Consequently, critics of the eight-hour workday point out that since World War II, the eight-hour workday has remained the norm and that even with the rise of technology the workday has not decreased for most jobs. Arguments in favor of shorter work days range from ones asserting that shorter work days will bring about a greater quality of life to ones contending that shorter work days will prevent layoffs and unemployment.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917Wilson v. New - Significance, The Eight-hour Workday