On this day in 1914, workers at the American Ford Motor Company – famed for producing the Model T car and revolutionizing automobile production – began working 8-hour days and receiving a $5 daily salary. At the orders of founder Henry Ford, Ford workers were soon working fewer hours and making more dollars than their counterparts at other automotive companies. Ford’s decision was deemed a radical move by his rivals – and many in the industrial world feared that treating workers humanely would ruin the economy – but overall worker productivity increased dramatically.
Two years later, Ford’s profits had skyrocketed from $30 million to $60 million, inspiring many other industrial leaders to follow suit. The dramatic improvement in workers’ treatment was revolutionary at the time, especially on the heels of the Industrial Revolution, during which workers were treated like disposable components in a massive machine. It’s perhaps ironic that Henry Ford – a noted anti-semite and fascist sympathizer during WWII – would make such a radically pro-worker move that, if made today in the United States, would probably be labelled “socialist” or “un-American”.