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January President’s Report

Feb 4, 2022 | President, President's Corner, Recent News

Work-life balance is a hot topic – bandied about by managers, consultants, and lifestyle coaches. This phrase has been around since the 1980’s. The general idea is that you have a balance between work and your personal life. However, this is not a new idea in modern times. The Labor Movement was on top of this over a century ago. IBEW Union members have fought long and hard to establish a good work-life balance and raise the standard of living.

“Eight hours for work. Eight hours for rest. Eight hours for what we will.” This is a common slogan created from the Eight-Hour Movement that started in 1860’s. At the Haymarket Riot of 1886 and other rallies across the United States during the time that phrase could be heard. It was a radical idea back in 1886 and should not be a radical idea now in 2022. Yet we are working more and more hours.

In 1891 the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (NBEW) also had our best interests at heart when the first delegates at the first convention drafted the constitution and laws that guide the IBEW today. These delegates, the IBEW’s founding fathers, included the Objects of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in the preamble of the IBEW Constitution. “To reduce the hours of daily labor;” is one of the eleven Objects. Eight hours for work per day is a reasonable guideline. However, realizing this goal would be a long time coming.

It wasn’t until 1938 when the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted that a 40-hour work week with 8-hour days is finally adopted. The Labor Movement’s blood, sweat, and tears went into passing that act. We will do well to remember the reasons the Eight-Hour Movement was started nearly 75 years prior. Working conditions were unsafe, unsanitary, and unhealthy for the working class. The average work week consisted of a little over 60 hours in a six-day time span. The standard of living was lower because of the amount of control employers had over the lives of employees.

The pandemic has forced many people to reevaluate what it means to be an American Worker. Phrases like “essential worker” and “frontline worker” have placed a burden on workforce that was already over-stressed. It’s not uncommon to hear hard working Union members talk about 50, 60, and even 70-hour work weeks. This goes well above the eight hours our Sisters and Brothers fought and died for over 100 years ago.

If we collectively strive to live up to our obligation by following the Objects of the IBEW Constitution, we can achieve much. Following the 8-8-8 rule that the Labor Movement has recognized as a good balance will enhance our lives. How do you spend your eight hours of play? Do you spend it hiking, fishing, sports, games, attending your children’s recitals and ball games, woodworking, painting, playing music, volunteering, or some other meaningful endeavor? Our standard of living is better because our ancestors in the Labor Movement sacrificed and fought for a 40-hour work week with 8-hour work days.

We need to keep up that fight because we all have earned “Eight hours for what we will.”

In Solidarity,

Kasey Lansangan