Shorter Work Week

December 3, 1954

Report Outline
Economic comdition and hours of work
Union Pressure for Shorter Work Week
Trends in Agreements on Working Time
Prospects for a Shorter Work Week
Special Focus

Economic comdition and hours of work

A relative scarcity of job opportunities, since the economy receded from the boom peaks touched in mid-1953, has sparked a revival of labor demands for a shorter basic work-week. Agitation for a 35-hour, even a 30-hour, week is certain to become insistent, irrespective of business conditions, if technological advances fufill current promises of drastically cutting down the need for human labor in many industrial, agricultural, and other operations.

The American Federation of Labor, at its annual convention last September, called for revision of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to reduce the standard workweek from 40 to 35 hours; the A.F.L. resolution also set 30 hours a week as the ultimate goal. Although the C.I.O. is not expected to take comparable action at its convention next week, there are indications that it may do so after it has attained certain objectives now given priority. In the meantime, a number of individual C I.O. as well as A.F.L. unions have been pressing for a shorter work-week in collective bargaining negotiations.

Limitation of hours of work and maintenance of decent wages always have been primary objectives of American labor unions. When production was expanding under the impetus of the defense program, prior to Pearl Harbor, there appeared to be general labor satisfaction with the statutory 40-hour standard week. An increasing number of union contracts made provision for pay rates based on that standard, with application of time-and-a-half rates for overtime. While wage rates were held down under wartime regulations, unions worked to obtain so-called fringe benefits, such as health and pension plans, paid vacations, and paid sick leave. After government controls had been lifted, the question of pay rates again became dominant in contract negotiations; major unions sought to retrieve premium earnings lost when overtime work decreased and workers returned to the 40-hour norm.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Work Week
Jun. 12, 1987  Part-Time Work
Feb. 28, 1973  Leisure Business
Apr. 19, 1972  Productivity and the New Work Ethic
Aug. 11, 1971  Four-Day Week
Dec. 09, 1964  Leisure in the Great Society
Jun. 13, 1962  Shorter Hours of Work
Feb. 17, 1960  Sunday Selling
May 08, 1957  Four-Day Week
Dec. 03, 1954  Shorter Work Week
Mar. 05, 1948  Hours of Work and Full Production
Jul. 05, 1944  Hours of Work After the War
Nov. 16, 1942  Hours of Work in Wartime
Jan. 17, 1936  The Thirty-Hour Week
Mar. 10, 1932  The Five-Day Week and the Six-Hour Day
May 23, 1929  The Five-Day Week in Industry
Labor Standards and Practices
Unions and Labor-Management Relations