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Thank A Democrat: The 8-Hour Day

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

by J. Michael Atherton.

Worked a 14-hour day lately? If so, how many months or years do you think you can keep up this long daily schedule? In 1890 the government determined factory workers put in a whopping 100 hours per week with no overtime pay. They got no overtime pay because there was no standard time to go over. So workers just kept at it in grueling conditions that proved hazardous to their physical and mental health, their family life, and even to their physical life.

The 8-hour breakdown of the day came in 1817 when manufacturer and labor activist Robert Owen coined the phrase, “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.” (1)

Henry Ford thought this a gem of an idea and said so, “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either lost time or a class privilege.” (1)

There were various laws concerning the 8-hour day since 1867, but it wasn’t until 1938 when Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, passed the Fair Labor Standards Act that required full-time workers who worked over 40 hours per week to receive overtime pay.

Many of the jobs back then were back-breaking and dangerous factory jobs. Today white color jobs outnumber manufacturing jobs. White color jobs may be cloying and annoying but few would label them as back-breaking and dangerous. So we can ask if we need to worry about an 8-hour law when many of us routinely work more than 40 hours per week without overtime pay.

This just means today’s work is more complicated. We have deadlines to meet, orders to fill, and contracts to fulfill. At times we cannot stop; however, here is the question we must ask: who should make this choice, you or the boss? If we choose to put in extra hours, then it should be our choice. Unions and Democrats agree and have voted overwhelmingly for the choice to remain squarely in workers’ hands.

If you want the freedom to choose to work longer than 8 hours per day and to demand overtime pay when you have earned it, then thank a Democrat.


About the author:

Mike retired from 30 years of teaching philosophy after 20 years of teaching a variety of subjects from elementary to graduate school. He served four years in the Peace Corps in Swaziland (now Eswatini), followed by marriage, first child, and PhD all at the University of Chicago. He and his wife Cynthia moved to Southwest Pennsylvania where she taught ecology and he taught philosophy while they raised two daughters. They moved to Dover in 2019 to be near their two grandsons in Maine. He has consistently found the Dems to be a group that publicly and privately follows their stated values: compassion, honesty, integrity, respect the dignity of all people, expanded freedom, responsible citizenship, promoting civil society, and protecting our environment.

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