Wednesday, May 01, 2024

May 1, 1926: Ford Institutes 5-Day 40-Hour Work Week


Henry Ford revolutionized the manufacturing process with assembly lines in large production plants using interchangeable parts,, and he also revolutionized the entire working world with a 100% increase in pay and the 5-day work week:

Henry Ford’s Detroit-based automobile company had broken ground in its labor policies before. In early 1914, against a backdrop of widespread unemployment and increasing labor unrest, Ford announced that it would pay its male factory workers a minimum wage of $5 per eight-hour day, upped from a previous rate of $2.34 for nine hours (the policy was adopted for female workers in 1916). The news shocked many in the industry—at the time, $5 per day was nearly double what the average auto worker made—but turned out to be a stroke of brilliance, immediately boosting productivity along the assembly line and building a sense of company loyalty and pride among Ford’s workers.

Henry Ford said of the decision: “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either ‘lost time’ or a class privilege.” At Ford’s own admission, however, the five-day workweek was also instituted in order to increase productivity: Though workers’ time on the job had decreased, they were expected to expend more effort while they were there. Manufacturers all over the country, and the world, soon followed Ford’s lead, and the Monday-to-Friday workweek became standard practice.

Click photo for Wikipedia entry
So prior to 1914, the assembly line workers worked 9 hours a day, 6 days a week, a total of 54 hours, for $2.34 per day, or $14.04 per week. 

By mid-1926 this had changed to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, a total of 40 hours, for $5 per day, or $25 per week.

The business saw increased productivity with the new 5-day 40-hour work week, yes — but a capitalist mutli-millionaire invented the entire concept of leisure time on weekends for working men.

This is a point not to be diminished.  

Later, after another ugly world war and as the concept of the 5-day work week took hold throughout the American economy and then the world, the consumer economy had a chance to take off in the 1950s, and so it did.