Whether it is celebrated on May 1st or the first Monday of September, or it’s Labour Day or Labor Day. Engineers who work in the field should be grateful for the advances in workers’ rights that have been made since the first Labor Day Parade in New York in 1882. 14 million Americans are expected to be travelling over Labor Day weekend. Hopefully some will find time to remember the people who fought over many years to win the benefits many workers across the world now enjoy. Also, to remember that there is still work to be done in increasing workers’ rights across the world.
Eight hours’ labour, eight hours’ recreation, eight hours’ rest
The first country to introduce an eight hour work day was Spain, introduced by Philip ll in 1594,
“All the workers will work eight hours a day, four in the morning, and four in the afternoon in fortifications and factories, which [The hours] are to be made, distributed at the most convenient times to get rid of the rigor of the sun, [and] more or less what seems to [be right to] the engineers, so that not missing a point of the possible [work], it is also attended to ensure their health and conservation”.
In the early 19th century, Robert Owen raised the demand for a ten-hour day in 1810. As well, he instituted it in his “socialist” enterprise at New Lanark. By 1817 he had formulated the goal of the eight-hour day and coined the slogan.
“Eight hours’ labour, Eight hours’ recreation, Eight hours’ rest”.
Women and children in England were granted the ten-hour day in 1847. French workers won the 12-hour day after the February Revolution of 1848. (quoted from Wikipedia).
Many countries still do not have regulations on working hours. However, for many they are able to have a true work life balance because of Labour laws won through organised labour, and organisations such as the International Labour Organization.
How working life has changed for the better
For most Field Engineers working in North America and Europe their quality of work life is protected by a wide range of laws. These laws have been introduced since the first Labor Day.
Workers now expect and receive from their employers reasonable work hours. When they work away from home they are given travel allowances. In addition, accommodation and travel expenses are paid for by their employer.
There are regulations to protect them in their place of work.
A big change since these New York construction workers were photographed during the construction of the Rockefeller Center in 1932. (picture copyright Getty Images).
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is now mandatory for specific jobs.
Women’s Labour Rights
Women have always been part of the labour force. However, until Word War 1 there were many jobs that it was thought women could not do.
World War 1 changed this as men were needed on the battlefield. So, jobs in manufacturing, farming, and across all trades needed to be done by women.
From this time on the journey in the UK for example towards The Equality Act 2010, was assured.
This Act makes it unlawful for employers to treat workers less favourably than others on account of sex, sexual orientation, transgender or marital status. Workers are protected at all stages of employment, including recruitment and dismissal, against both direct discrimination and indirect discrimination.
However women’s rights in many countries are still limited. In countries like Afghanistan women’s right have gone backwards in the last two years. Across much of the world women are still treated unequally. The Field Engineer community champions women in Engineering. It will do all it can to nurture and grow women’s rights across the world.
The Future of Labor Day? A global celebration?
Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling , and Anna Rosling Rönnlund in their book Factfulness give us hope that the world is on a trajectory towards a better quality of life for more and more people.
Although the hours people have to work, and their safety at work in many places still remains very long and very precarious.
We can see in The Field Engineer community how many of our members across the world are able to enjoy a good work life balance. Being a Field Engineer in the 21st century can offer a great combination of work, health, safety at work, and time for recreation and rest.
Robert Owen’s 1817 goal of “Eight hours’ labour, Eight hours’ recreation, Eight hours’ rest” has become a reality for many.
On this day we should celebrate our forebears, and remember that their task is still not completed.