Samuel Gompers on Shorter Hours:

1883: [I]f you wish to improve the condition of the people, you must improve their habits and customs.  The reduction of the hours of labor reaches the very root of society.  It gives the workingman better conditions and better opportunities and makes of him what has been too long neglected -- a consumer instead of a mere producer. . . .  A man who goes to his work before the dawn of day requires no clean shirt to go to work in, but is content to go in any old overall . . . but a man who goes to work at 8 o'clock in the morning wants a clean shirt; he is afraid his friends will see him, so he does not want to be dirty.  He also requires a newspaper; while a man who goes to work early in the morning and stays late at night does not need a newspaper, for he has no time to read it, requiring all the time he has to recuperate his strength sufficiently to get ready for his next day's work. (Vol. 1: Testimony, U.S. Cong., Senate Comm. on Education and Labor, Aug. 16, 1883)

1888: The men who work seven or eight hours are not the men who can be bought. (Vol. 2: Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 10, 1888)

1890: We want eight hours and nothing less.  We have been accused of being selfish, and it has been said that we will want more . . . .  We do want more.  You will find that a man generally wants more. . . .  You ask a workingman, who is getting two dollars a day, and he will say he wants ten cents more.  Ask a man who gets five dollars a day and he will want fifty cents more.  The man who receives five thousand a year wants six thousand . . . while the man who has his millions will want everything he can lay his hands on and then raise his voice against the poor devil who wants ten cents more a day. . . .  We do want more, and when it becomes more, we shall still want more.  And we shall never cease to demand more until we have received the results of our labor. (Vol. 2: Louisville Courier Journal , May 2, 1890)

1891: The long hour men go home, throw themselves on a miserable apology for a bed and dream of work.  They eat to work, sleep to work, and dream to work, instead of working to live.  The man who goes home early has time to see his children, to eat his supper, to read the newspaper.  That reading the newspaper creates a desire to be alone for half an hour, and that starts a desire for an extra room, just a little extra room.  That extra room is a milestone in the record of social progress.  It means a carpet on the floor, a chair, an easy chair, a picture on the wall, a piano or organ . . . .  Let the people demand an extra room with all that goes with it, and they will get wages enough to buy it.  Time is the most valuable thing on earth: time to think, time to act, time to extend our fraternal relations, time to become better men, time to become better women, time to become better and more independent citizens. (Vol. 3: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mar. 23, 1891)

1900: I look to the proposition of labor to reduce the daily hours of toil of the working people of our country as the greatest proposition that has ever  been offered to the Congress of the United States and to the employers of the United States; calculated to be of more benefit for the whole people of our country; calculated to be the greatest safety for the perpetuation of republican institutions, a greater safety  for the progress, the success of the people of our country -- all classes -- of attaining a position as great and grand and successful in industry, in commerce, in intelligence, in humanity, in civilization than all the other propositions that have been submitted to this or any other previous Congress of the United States. (Vol. 5: Testimony, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Labor, Mar. 8, 1900)

1914: I am in favor of the legal enactment for the maximum hours of labor for all workmen in direct Government employment, and for those who do work that the Government has substituted for Governmental authority. I am in favor of the --and the federation . . . is in favor of the maximum number of hours for children, for minors, and for women. (Vol. 9: Testimony before the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations, May 22, 1914)


WEB Accessibility

Created by   The Samuel Gompers Papers Project