To this day...The headquarters of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) still retains the hard-copy of the Adamson Act which was passed by President Wilson. The pen used to sign the Act is also a prized possession of BLET.
With Woodrow Wilson embarking the power as President, there came the phase of New Freedom, which called for several reforms. One of these was the enactment of an eight-hour working day for the railroad employees, which was instituted and enacted in 1916. With this deduction in the working hours, there was no deduction in the pay of these employees. This meant that the workers were expected to complete a 40-hour working term each week, and any overtime would be rewarded and compensated for. This came to be known as the Adamson Act. The Adamson Act of 1916 is also known as the Eight-hour Standard Workday Act.
Let's check out some important aspects related to this landmark Act.
ADAMSON ACT-1916: Summary and Significance
► There are loads of state and federal laws which protect the rights of workers and assign certain guidelines for employers. On such law is the Adamson Act, which was passed in the year 1916.
► It was one amongst the many railway laws that were passed before the Railway Labor Act was passed in 1926.
► In the wake of industrialization and modernization, business enterprises flourished like never before. There was this ruthless tendency to amass wealth in the shortest time-frame possible.
► This triggered continuous labor on the part of the workers. One such industry which progressed at the cost of the interest of its workers was the railways.
► The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) established in 1863, was one of the organizations which propelled the government to bring significant changes in the course of labor in the railways.
► In collaboration with other pro-rail labor organizations, BLET began the cause to render the 24-hour work pattern illegal.
► The cause was successful with the Hours of Service Act coming into place in 1907, which set the maximum time span to 16 hours each day. Then the Adamson Act was passed in 1916, the first ever law to grant excess pay for overtime.
ADAMSON ACT: What Did it Do?
► One of the most significant, direct, and immediate results of the Act was the ceasing of labor strikes which occurred and impacted the US efforts during the First World War.
► The Act was passed fearing the breakout of a strike by rail workers, which would have wreaked major problems upon America, prior to and during World War I.
► It is worth noting that any person who violated any provision of the Act would be inviting a punishment of a fine of $100 - $1,000, or would undergo an imprisonment of up to one year, or would be slapped with both these punishments, depending on the severity of the crime.
Although there is no concrete evidence, it can be stated that when Ford Motor Company reduced its working hours from nine to eight, many other competitors trod the same line, because of the company's rapid increase in quality and productivity. The employers had initially suggested a pay hike instead of the reduction of working hours. However, sooner than later, Wilson facilitated the enactment of this Act anyway.