Small businesses in America represent over 99% of the country’s employers and nearly 50% of all private-sector jobs. Workers are not just cogs in a wheel, clocking in and out. They are critical to making businesses profitable and to the overall growth of the economy.
Yesterday marked an important anniversary in the historically slow but steady progress toward standardizing the eight-hour workday for employees. 123 years ago, hundreds of thousands of railway workers authorized a strike if their long and tiresome workdays were not managed more reasonably. The eight-hour workday was already standard for certain union and government employees, but it took an act of Congress on September 2, 1916, and President Wilson’s pen to force the railroad companies to implement an eight-hour day for railway workers, with additional pay for overtime. The Adamson Act was the first federal law to protect private-sector employees from working overtime without pay.
Businesses soon realized that meaningfully considering their workers’ lives outside of work contributed greatly to the success and profitability of the company. Ford Motor Company saw profits nearly double in two years after raising its minimum wage to $5 and reducing the workweek to 40 hours. Labor Day is a day to celebrate the American worker – “the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership” (U.S. Department of Labor).
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