Saturday, December 23, 2006

Understanding The "Weekend"

Many people will remember Henry Ford for the invention of the transmission mechanism, Model-T and the assembly line for automobile manufacturing. But it is something he did in 1914 that changed the way America works. "We have," he said, "decided upon and at once put into effect through all the branches of our industries the five day week. Hereafter there will be no more work with us on Saturdays and Sundays. These will be free days, but the men, according to merit, will receive the same pay equivalent as for a full six day week. A day will continue to be eight hours, with no overtime." Of course, this was looked at as crazy but the standard workweek and weekend were defined.

The brilliance of this announcement was that both of the days off observed the different Sabbaths of Jews and Gentiles who at that time worked a 6-day week. Previously, it was advantageous to hire from only one religious group to keep a maximum workforce for 6 of 7 days a week instead of full attendance 5 of 7 days and partial employment for the other 2. At this time racial and religious anti-discrimination policies weren't put in place to create this change. Businesses that previously hired only Catholics (so the full force of the labor could work Monday to Saturday) were still free to do so but... that other company gives you an extra day off and the same pay. Costly litigation was avoided that would later come from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, et seq., which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious needs.

Anyhow, as this is the start of the weekend, leading into Christmas, I thought that I'd take a moment to thank people like Henry Ford that had a moral compass (before needing lawyers and judges to nudge them in the right direction) and made ESSO [Every Saturday and Sunday Off] employment mainstream. Not that this exists much in the 24-hour hubbub of Las Vegas but for those of you that happen to enjoy it... have a great "weekend" as it could have been your "day off."

No comments: