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Why do we work 9 to 5? The history of the eight-hour workday

US work culture revolves around employees putting in eight hours a day, five days a week — a schedule immortalized by Dolly Parton in her 1980 song “9 to 5.”

It’s just the norm, many assume. Same as it ever was.

Except, it wasn’t always so. It has just held steady at that level since World War II.

How the United States landed on the eight-hour standard wasn’t the result of one union or one industry, one company or one law. Rather it came about after a long and complex mix of labor actions, advocacy, political compromises, pioneering employers and economic competition.

Here is a (highly) abbreviated rundown of how US society settled (so far anyway) on an eight-hour workday.

In the mid-1800s, working 70-plus hours a week was common …



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