And for the 8-hour workday, thank the labor movement:
In the United States, Philadelphia carpenters went on strike in 1791 for the ten-hour day. By the 1830s, this had become a general demand. In 1835, workers in Philadelphia organized a general strike, led by Irish coal heavers. Their banners read, From 6 to 6, ten hours work and two hours for meals. Labor movement publications called for an eight-hour day as early as 1836. Boston ship carpenters, although not unionized, achieved an eight-hour day in 1842.
In 1864, the eight-hour day quickly became a central demand of the Chicago labor movement. The Illinois legislature passed a law in early 1867 granting an eight-hour day but had so many loopholes that it was largely ineffective. A city-wide strike that began on May 1, 1867 shut down the city's economy for a week before collapsing. In 1868, Congress passed an eight-hour law for federal employees, which was also of limited effectiveness.
In August 1866 the National Labor Union at Baltimore passed a resolution that said, "The first and great necessity of the present to free labour of this country from capitalist slavery, is the passing of a law by which eight hours shall be the normal working day in all States of the American Union. We are resolved to put forth all our strength until this glorious result is achieved."
Gee. No wonder the Republicans hate labor!
But we still have a way to go:
The United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation time, according to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. As a result, 1 in 4 private-sector workers in the U.S. do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays.
The report, No-Vacation Nation, by Rebecca Ray and John Schmitt, finds that European workers are legally guaranteed at least 20 paid vacation days per year, with 25 and even 30 or more days common in some countries.
The gap between paid time off in the United States and the rest of the world is even larger when legal holidays are included. The United States does not guarantee any paid holidays, but most rich countries provide between 5 and 13 per year, in addition to paid vacation days.
“Relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave just hasn't worked,” said John Schmitt, senior economist and co-author of the report. “It's a national embarrassment that 28 million Americans don't get any paid vacation or paid holidays.”
Remember, this is not the time to be grateful for what little you have. This is the time to fight.
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