President Dimondstein Presents the Struggle for Shorter Working Hours at AFL-CIO Convention

June 13, 2022

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On June 13, APWU President Mark Dimondstein addressed the delegates at the 2022 AFL-CIO Convention in Philadelphia, introducing a resolution that supports a shorter work week with no reduction in pay/benefits.

Good Afternoon Union Family, President Dimondstein addresses delegates at the 2022 AFL-CIO Convention

I rise before you today to introduce a resolution addressing the vital issue of working hours and what must be the labor movement’s fight to secure a shorter working week and working life, with no loss of pay.  This is not a new fight, but should be a continuing one.

Workers’ struggle for shorter working hours is nearly as old the country itself. And it started here, in Philadelphia, when in 1791, organized carpenters struck the city, demanding a 10-hour work day, a reduction from the sunup to sundown schedule normal at the time.

It took decades, and an increasingly militant movement to win their demand. In 1835, workers in Philadelphia led the country’s first citywide general strike succeeding in reducing their working hours.

In 1866 the National Labor Union passed a resolution saying "The first and great necessity of the present to free labor of this country from capitalist slavery, is the passing of a law by which eight hours shall be the normal working day. We are resolved to put forth all our strength until this glorious result is achieved."

And our modern movement takes inspiration from the struggles for the shorter workweek at Haymarket in 1886, and those leaders murdered by the government for their audacity to demand “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what you will.” And it was this struggle for the eight-hour day that led to the creation of May Day, the international holiday of the working class.

But once we secured the eight-hour day and 40-hour workweek through generations of struggle, the labor movement largely abandoned the fight for the shorter work week. We now witness increased work hours with forced overtime, workers compelled to work multiple jobs and an increase in the retirement age. The issue of working hours was a key driver in some of the recent militant strikes.

Instead of liberating workers, the rapid advances of automation and Artificial Intelligence, are being used to enrich the profits of corporate America and Wall Street, causes more unemployment, and less job opportunities for coming generations.  Last year corporate profits surged to a record $3 trillion.

We are being forced to “live to work”, rather than “work to live”. Workers deserve better. We deserve more for our time at work, and we deserve more time away from work to enjoy our families, strengthen our communities, appreciate and protect the wonders of our planet and to build a working-class movement that secures justice for all workers.

Our own history shows we can win these bold demands. The experience of other workers and their unions around the world shows we can win shorter working hours with no cut in pay.

I urge you to adopt this resolution.


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