Henry Ford Invented the 5-Day Work Week-Mostly Truth!
Summary of eRumor:
It’s been rumored that Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford created the five-day, 40-hour workweek.
It’s true that Henry Ford was first manufacturing leader who set five-day workweeks for his employees.
Ford first made waves in 1914 when he announced that he’d pay his factor workers $5 a day, more than double what they had previously made. There’s a common misconception that Ford believed that paying his employees more would mean that more of them could afford to buy Model T cars. However, in reality, Ford realized that he was losing lots of money hiring and training new employees to replace the ones who quit, Forbes reports:
At the time, workers could count on about $2.25 per day, for which they worked nine-hour shifts. It was pretty good money in those days, but the toll was too much for many to bear. Ford’s turnover rate was very high. In 1913, Ford hired more than 52,000 men to keep a workforce of only 14,000. New workers required a costly break-in period, making matters worse for the company. Also, some men simply walked away from the line to quit and look for a job elsewhere. Then the line stopped and production of cars halted. The increased cost and delayed production kept Ford from selling his cars at the low price he wanted. Drastic measures were necessary if he was to keep up this production.
Then, in 1926, Henry Ford introduced an even more radical idea: the five-day workweek. Before that, Ford employees worked six eight-hour days a week. Ford explained his reasoning in October 1926, Time reports:
Ford’s next act came in September 1926, when the company announced the five-day workweek. As he noted in his company’s Ford News in October, “Just as the eight-hour day opened our way to prosperity in America, so the five-day workweek will open our way to still greater prosperity … It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either lost time or a class privilege.” The five-day week, he figured, would encourage industrial workers to vacation and shop on Saturday. Before long, manufacturers all over the world followed his lead. “People who have more leisure must have more clothes,” he argued. “They eat a greater variety of food. They require more transportation in vehicles.” Taking advantage of his own wisdom, he discontinued the Model T and then, on a Saturday, launched the Model A. The 1927 unveiling would see 10,534,992 people visiting dealerships just to glimpse the latest product of the Sage of Dearborn.
However, Labor Historian Clete Daniel offers an alternative idea for why Henry Ford decided to invent the five-day workweek. Ford realized that they would be much more productive and dedicated when working five days a week:
There were some companies particularly in the 1920s that decided long hours would undermine their work forces through the long-term effects of long hours. Companies like General Electric and U.S. Rubber. Employers decided the way to maximize their labor pools was not by long hours, but by winning them over. In this era, employers stressed it was in employees’ best interest to be as productive as possible. Through this concept of welfare capitalism, companies became benefactors; and employees gained shorter work hours, but also sick benefits and health insurance.
Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company espoused the idea that if you made these concessions, you could actually put greater demands on employees. When Ford created the five-day workweek (instead of six) people thought he was a radical, but he proved that he could achieve as much in production in five days as six.
The 40-hour workweek officially became law in 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a package of labor laws that covered maximum hours, mandatory overtime and child labor protections.