This is the hour where you cannot keep from thinking about how long it is until the working day is over. I find myself trying hard not to think about it, but regardless how hard I try, I cannot keep those thoughts out of my mind. Thus, within this hour time slows down. The same question enters my mental being every day around this time; "will this damn day never end?"
The conditions, we working people, find ourselves in today are the direct result of a number of factors:
- The ability of the employers to manipulate social and economic conditions in their favor.
- The weakness of the business unions (like the AFL-CIO) to effect conditions in favor of working people.
- The feeling of helplessness among working people in relation to being able to have any impact on social and economic conditions.
The employers are stronger than ever, because they have organized in their class interest. Their industrial lobbyists are able to get nearly anything they want out of the politicians. The international organization of regional trading blocks, allows the employers to control social and economic conditions and the governments within those regions. All the so-called "free trade agreements" which benefit the employers at the expense of working people and the environment are but one good example of the growing power of the employing class. These things are coming about, not because of any natural law that governs human activity, but rather from the organization of class interests.
The business unions are unable to counter the class based organization of the employers, because they have all but lost their original purpose. The purpose of labor unions was to organize the interests of working people. But in the process they became infested with a professional class of union officials, who had their own interests. These union bosses viewed their self-interests as different than the rank and file union members. Their interests lie in gaining, holding onto and consolidating personal power and wealth. In fact they have more in common with the employing class than they do with the working class. Because of the void left in the organized interests of working people, the government, in doing the bidding of the employers, was able to pass many anti-labor laws that strengthened the power of the employers over the workers. These anti-labor laws stripped organized labor of their most effective weapons. In toady's industrial world these business unions are, at best, only able to have minor effects on wages and conditions. These unions lose more strikes than they win. One of the direct results of this weakness and corruption is the steady loss of the eight hour day.
One may ask; if the employers have so much power today, then why do they not have an all out assault on the past labor gains? The answer to this is the same reason why the business unions must produce some form of direct gains. The answer is fear. Working people possess far greater power than all the employers, governments and union bosses put together. And that power is the power of production. And these other classes of people know that if working people are pushed too far that they may use their power.
There is one organization that did, and still does, seek to organize the interests of working people into a powerful organization, without a professional class of union bosses. That organization is the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.). Though the labor fakers and so-called labor historians would have you believe that the IWW was just a labor rebellion years ago that became out-dated, the fact is the IWW is still here today organizing working people.
The ideas of the IWW of international industrial unionism is even more relevant than they were years ago. While the employers have organized their self-interests internationally, the idea of the IWW is that working people should do the same. The IWW seeks to organize working people into the most effective possible industrial organization. This industrial organization would use the power of production through the solidarity of working people in the direct interests of all working people wherever they maybe. Among the demands that the IWW has always made is the reduction of hours worked without the reduction of pay.
There is no hope in resisting forced overtime work and the dreadful effects that it has, if, we working people are unwilling to act directly ourselves. The eight hour day was not given to us in the past out of the kindness of the bosses' hearts! We won it through our struggles and we must struggle again to regain it. We cannot sit around hoping that the other worker will do that which we all must do. True social and economic movements are built one person at a time. And that means you, dear reader.
This hour is like the hour right before lunch. The time goes slowly by as the countdown begins to the end of the working day. One hour to go, 45 minutes to go, 30 minutes to go, 15 minutes to go, 5 minutes to go, 1 minute to go, then the loud shrill of the quitting time horn is heard. Then the walking dead come back to life. Off we each go to our little homes to shower, eat and sleep. Only to be awaked the next morning to begin another long working day of the overtime slave.
Where is it written in the laws of creation that commands us to work as we do? Does it really make sense that but a few parasites control industrial production and the conditions of that production? It is but a piece of paper that allows a few to own most everything while the many suffer and do without. It is we who grant those special rights to a few to live by owning and having to do no useful work. All that they have we have given them. All that we do not have we have let slip away.
So, what ever happened to the eight hour day? We surrendered it. But the employers need not have the last word on this issue. We can talk to our sisters and fellow workers on and off the job. We can educate and organize and rebuild the Wobblies, the Industrial Workers of the World. We have that power if will are only willing to use it. And with that power we can recreate the eight hour day movement and finish the work started so long ago. And never again surrendering our demand, "eight hours for work, eight hours to rest, eight for what we will." And when working people have once again won the eight hour day we can then begin to demand the six hour day.