Page:Historical Catechism of American Unionism.pdf/12

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40. Did not this method give the employers a great advantage in the summer as compared with the winter?
41. How did the working day come to be so measured?
Farming, which was then the prevailing industry, was carried on with sun to sun as the measure of the day. The idea prevailed that this practice was necessary in manufacturing as well. Besides, it was believed that shortening the workday would have "an injurious effect" in all modes of business, agriculture and commerce. Moreover, lowering the working time would be "opening a wide door for idleness and vice," and would destroy the condition of the workers, "made happy and prosperous by frugal, orderly, temperate and ancient habits". As usual, even in our day, the demand for a shorter workday was attributed to foreigners, "bringing with them their feelings and habits, and a spirit of discontent and insubordination to which our Native Mechanics have hitherto been strangers". (1821)
42. What was the first attempt made by any workers to shorten the workday?
That of the Union Society of Carpenters in Philadelphia, in May 1791. The men demanded a working day "from 6 o'clock in the morning to six in the evening."
43. What, besides the long workday, brought on the 1791 carpenters' strike?
The master carpenters paid by the day in summer, and work was done at piece rates in the winter.
44. What other ten-hour manifestations have we any record of.
Journeymen, Millwrights and Machine Workers of Philadelphia (1822); Boston House Carpenters (1825), who struck in the busy season as there was a great demand for carpenters owing to "the recent calamitous fire" and "great public improvements". They "believed the existing wages derogatory to the principles not only of justice, but of humanity", and "that ten hours faithful labor shall hereafter constitute a day's work." They also contended that "on the present system, it is impossible for a Journeyman, Housewright and House Carpenter to maintain a family....with the wages now given".