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Time for 10-hour, 4-day work week?
by Ira Hansen
May 31, 2008 | 860 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The American labor movement began in the era of Andrew Jackson, the 1830s, and one of the earliest demands was for a 10-hour, six-day work week. At the time, a 12-hour, six-day week was the norm.

Incidentally, the desired “10-hour” day was 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with an hour for breakfast and lunch and Sundays off, in keeping with the commandment “six days shalt thou labor,” etc.

After the civil war, the movement pressed for an eight-hour, six-day week. This was not implemented until after World War I.

And it wasn’t until 1938 that our current 40-hour, five-day work week became standard.

Today, facing a major energy crisis, not to mention a major economic downturn here in Nevada, everyone is scrambling, trying to come up with ways to cut energy consumption while still maintaining high levels of production and employment.

An idea experimented with a bit across the nation should be given high priority by Nevada – with some sort of “governor’s task force” leading the charge – to study thoroughly the idea of once again restructuring our traditional work week into a 10-hour, four-day standard.

For the state government, facing a major budget shortfall thanks to the collapse of the housing market, the idea should be reviewed not so much from a laborers standpoint, but from one of energy conservation.

Think about it. In driving alone, you would cut back one-fifth — 20 percent. Government buildings could be put on minimum usage an extra day. Wear and tear on government vehicles would decline, allowing for longer replacement periods. After three days of R&R, workers would be more alert. “Commuter traffic” on our roadways would decline, with a corresponding drop in wear and tear on vehicles. Current government budgets could be trimmed as well, thanks to declining costs. I would bet overall morale would climb, productivity would expand and workers would dread their time at work less.

On a more personal note, families would have more time together, one extra day to do chores and needed household work; tourism, vital for Nevada, would probably rise; and overall satisfaction with life would go up. Think about it. How often do you look forward to those “three-day weekends” holidays create? Imagine if every weekend was that way.

I suspect an explosion of home-grown innovation would take place as well, with Americans’ famous “sit-in-your-garage-and-tinker” types given an extra day a week for creative thinking.

Overall, the idea seems great. There are some snags, perhaps large but certainly not insurmountable. How do you divide 24-hour shifts into a 10-hour work schedule? For around-the-clock businesses, this is a problem. Laws requiring mandatory overtime for any work over eight hours in a single day must be modified. After-school athletic activities would need restructuring. Undoubtedly there are many other challenges, but the overall balance tips favorably towards the 10-hour, four-day schedule. And we have not touched on the potential private-sector energy savings.

The public schools would be the major driving force in the change. If they made the switch, no doubt the rest of us would follow. School-wise, another benefit would be removal of that awkward couple of hours between when schools let out and mom and dad get home from work. Lots of troubles originate there, and this time gap could be effectively eliminated.

They say desperation is the mother of innovation. With gas prices rising daily, and our society addicted and designed around cheap energy, it is time to be creative. It sure can’t hurt to give the four-day week some serious thought.

Ira Hansen is a lifelong resident of Sparks, owner of Ira Hansen and Sons Plumbing and his radio talk show can be heard Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. on 99.1 FM.
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