This Labor Day I have been thinking about the 40 hour week and will share a few thoughts.
The first is that my great grandfather most probably worked for the first large US company to implement the 40 hour week.
It was 95 years ago that Ford first implemented the 40 hour week.
In the 1930 census my great grandfather Harvey I. Braman was living in Omaha and working at an auto plant. We believe that it was at the Ford Motor plant as it was just a few blocks away from where he was a boarder. We still need to do more research. Maybe a historian who knows more about the auto industry in Omaha can provide me with more information.
We do not know when he started working for the auto plant, but based on other life events he may have been working there in 1926.
If so, he may have been working for Ford when the 40 hour week was implemented.
My other thoughts have been about Ernst Abbe who researched optimum work times in the 1880’s in Jena, Germany at the Zeiss factory. His research let to him setting a 40 hour work week for Zeiss employees in 1900.
Ernst Abbe, the head of one of the greatest German factories, wrote many years ago that the shortening from nine to eight hours, that is, a cutting-down of more than 10 per cent, did not involve a reduction of the day’s product, but an increase, and that this increase did not result from any supplementary efforts by which the intensity of the work would be reinforced in an unhygienic way. This conviction of Abbe still seems to hold true after millions of experiments over the whole globe.
Psychology and Industrial Efficiency – 1913