How our lives changed 

Community Health Care
1803 7 St
Moline, IL 61265

Vickroy's of Monmouth
120 E Archer Ave
Monmouth, IL 61462

Evans Manufacturing
4608 W 78 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Martin Equipment
Rock Island, IL 61201

Clinton Community College
Muscatine Community College
Scott Community college

United Personnel, Inc
1921 5th Ave
Moline, IL 61265

KDi Corporation
P.O. Box 1342
Bettendorf, IA 52722

5115 Utica Ridge Rd
Davenport, IA 52807

Careers, Inc
807 W 35 St
Davenport, IA

Midwest Human Resources
4601 16 St
Moline, IL 61265

Volt Services Group
100 E Kimberly Rd Suite 404
Northwest Bank Building
Davenport, IA

All Staff Human Resources
3401 16 St
Moline, IL 61265

All Staff Human Resources
710 E Kimberly Rd
Davenport, IA

Olsten Health Services Staffing
100 E Kimberly Rd Suite 301
Northwest Bank Building
Davenport, IA

Olsten Health Services
2525 24 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Kelly Services
2001 52 Ave Suite A
Moline, IL 61265

Kelly Services
100 E Kimberly Rd Suite 504
Northwest Bank Building
Davenport, IA

Initial Staffing Services
2435 E Kimberly RD Suite 15 South
Bettendorf, IA 52722

Interim Personnel
4703 16 St
Moline, IL 61265

Labor sought shorter week, but big business fought it

By Sarah Larson, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer
Click to view larger image
Almost a century had passed between the time this Labor Day parade headed down Davenport's 2nd Street in 1902, and the day in 1997 that Vice President Al Gore led the Labor Day parade through the streets of East Moline (below). Several hours had passed too -- the difference between the average six-day, 55-hour work week at the turn of the century, and the five-day, 40-hour work week of today.

Balancing work and family is no easy act, as any working parent can testify, but conditions generally have improved a great deal over the last 100 years.

At the turn of the century, workers could expect to work 55 hours a week or more, according to ``The Economics of Work and Pay,'' a textbook Augustana College professor Bill Conway uses in his classes.

The length of the average work week was a significant issue as far back as the 1860s, according to ``John Deere's Company,'' a history of Deere & Co. written by Wayne Broehl Jr. A local movement backing the eight-hour work day grew after the Civil War, Mr. Broehl said.

However, local and national proponents of a shorter work week had quite a fight ahead of them, according to ``Labor Economics,'' a textbook on national labor developments.

``During the first half of the 19th century, employers and the general public saw nothing wrong with urban workers following the agricultural working day of from dawn to dusk,'' the book says. ``The long working day was accepted by the public because it was the norm for employers, merchants and retail clerks, and because of a prevailing, almost religious conviction of the virtues of hard work.''

Employers and other opponents of shorter hours worried that whole industries would crash if workers, including women and children, were allowed to work only eight hours a day.

The U.S. Supreme Court tussled with work-week limits several times, often seeming to contradict itself. In 1903, the court upheld an Oregon law limiting women to 10 hours a day in laundries and factories. In 1905, however, it declared unconstitutional a New York law limiting the hours of work in bakery and confectionery shops to 10 a day.

While national courts grappled with work-week limitations, local workers were captivated by other workplace issues. Wages, unionization, and the replacement of striking workers were important to Quad-Cities workers during the decades before the 20th century, Mr. Broehl said.

In 1901, the issue of shorter work weeks heated up locally once again. That year, the National Association of Machinists ordered its locals in the United States, Canada and Mexico to strike in support a nine-hour work day at 10 hours pay, Mr. Broehl said.

Nearly every major Quad-Cities employer, including Deere & Co., was hit hard. In retaliation, local employers turned to the National Metal Trades Association, formed in August 1899 after a series of machinist strikes in Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit. The association canceled its contract with the union and announced that employers had the right to direct operations as they saw fit.

In the Aug. 3, 1901, issue of the Moline Dispatch, Charles Deere said the serious labor disputes of recent years had forced the company to institute a written agreement with each worker, rather than make annual readjustments for wages.

The contract forced each employee to promise ``to make no demand upon them for an increase of wages or shorter day than 10 hours, nor to participate in any strike, nor to unite with other employees in any concerted action with a view to securing greater compensation.''

Deere & Co. held to the individual contract until the 1930s, when several developments boosted worker demands.

The 1936 Walsh-Healy Act ruled that employees working for federal contractors could work no more than eight hours in one day, or 40 hours in one week, unless they were paid time-and-a-half overtime.

Efforts to draft national work-hours legislation culminated in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established a maximum of 44 hours per week. By 1940 it was reduced to 40 hours, where it stands today.

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.