|U. S. Mail:||Benjamin Hunnicutt
University of Iowa,
Iowa City, IA 52242
|Office Phone:||(319) 335-9953
Fax: (319) 335-6669
Publishing Information Temple University Press, Broad and Oxford Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19122
Even though Kellogg's experiment ended a decade ago, the story of the company's six-hour day may offer answers to the today's scourges of downsizing, overwork, and the time famine; and may help recover a forgotten vision of genuine progress, defined for over a hundred years as expanding life outside work and industry for the advance of family, community, and an active, democratic culture.
Kellogg's Six-Hour Day continues the story of a lost American dream that Benjamin Hunnicutt began to tell in Work Without End. Instituted in 1930 as a response to the Great Depression, Kellogg's six-hours day was the high-water mark of a hundred year process that cut working time virtually in half. Kellogg Management, animated by a vision of Liberation Capitalism, argued that six-hours would revolutionize society by shifting the balance of life from work to leisure-- from economic concerns to the challenge of freedom. Kellogg employees agreed, believing as workers had for centuries that work was a means to an end, and that the sooner they could get off the job the better. The overwhelming majority was willing to 'share their work' and looked on the extra time as a boon for family, community, church, and individual freedom. But when the shorter hour process stopped after World War II, Kellogg's managers abandoned six-hours and began with the rest of the nation to define progress as more work for more people. Losing sight of the original dream of more time to live outside necessity, they argued that work should remain the center of life, providing identity, meaning, and purpose to an otherwise meaningless existence. Senior male workers followed suit. Challenged because they had to deal with women in unaccustomed ways during the new leisure, the men fled back to the safety of eight-hours, finding secure roles and status. With management, they reaffirmed the importance of work as life's polestar and began to trivialize and feminize shorter hours. But most women held on as long as they could. Inheritors labor's historic struggle, the six-hour mavericks fought to keep the old vision alive as long as they could. But they contended in a loosing contest with those who now argued that work was an end in itself. Finally the women capitulated in 1985, and the six-hour day died in Battle Creek. This story is a monument to workers' struggle for control over their lives and for substantial freedom beyond necessity. It serves as a reminder of an older, remarkable vision of progress, offering hope and guidance to the last decade of this century when layoffs, downsizing, mandatory overtime, and overwork plague the nation, and when many are predicting the 'end of work' and a 'jobless future.'