Four-Day Week

May 8, 1957

Report Outline
Labor's Drive to Shorten the Work Week
Unionism and the Short-Week Movement
Prospects for Additional Leisure Time

Labor's Drive to Shorten the Work Week

Mounting union pressure for a reduction in hours of work, without loss of take-home pay, raises the possibility that the four-day week will gradually become the general work pattern in this country. The five-day week, first widely introduced in the 1930s, has greatly influenced the American mode of living. The two-day holiday each week has promoted settlement in the suburbs and encouraged week-end motor trips. Large new markets have been opened up. Textile and clothing enterprises have benefited from a growing demand for informal clothes for leisure wear. The “do-it-yourself” movement, serving home owners who now have sufficient time for all kinds of improvement projects, has created virtually the equivalent of a new industry.

If hours of work now are further shortened, most persons apparently would prefer to take the additional time away from the job in the form of an extra day off each week, even if that means working nine hours a day for four days until a 32-hour week can be achieved. Questions are being raised as to what effect a three-day week end might have, not only on the markets for consumer goods, but also on living habits and on the average man's outlook on life. Some advocates of the four-day week look forward to a utopia in which the new-found leisure will be used constructively for social and cultural betterment; others predict gloomily that most men will not know what to do with so much free time and will either get bored or get into mischief.

Current Union Demands for Reduction of Hours

Organized labor gave notice years ago that it did not regard the 40-hour week as a permanent standard and that, when the time was ripe, it would push for a shorter work day or work week. The American Federation of Labor, long a passive supporter of the 30-hour week as an ideal, voted at its 1953 convention to “press vigilantly” toward that goal. At the constitutional convention which united the two major labor federations in December 1955, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations adopted resolutions calling for shortening of the work week both through collective bargaining and by amendment of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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