By the end of 1887 and beginning of 1888 the new Fiftieth Congress witnessed the renewed introduction of a large number of bills on behalf of carriers, including one by Crain that would have amended section 3738 to include all other persons who are now or who may hereafter be employed in manual or clerical labor in the civil service by or on behalf of the Government of the United States, whether they be paid per diem or by salary; the bill provided that such workers shall not receive less compensation for a legal day’s work, as…herein defined, than the rate of wages paid for an ordinary day’s labor of similar character by private employers in the respective localities in which the Government employees may be at work. The Senate report on the main bill presumed that a letter carrier was a hybrid white-collar/blue-collar worker who must possess the qualifications of an excellent clerk in order to be competent to discharge the duties of his position. His physical exertion is certainly as exhaustive as that of any laborer or mechanic, and there is little room to doubt that eight hours of his labor subtracts as much from his physical and mental powers as in the case of any other class of persons engaged in the public service. In the case of carriers, however, a day’s work ranged from nine to 16 hours.
The one point on which the Senate, whose Education and Labor Committee noted that Congress had received many memorials and petitions including one from the New York City Board of Aldermen on behalf of relief for the carriers, failed to accommodate the carriers was their demand for an end to the split shift. Their wish for an eight-hour day within nine or ten consecutive hours, was driven, as the Letter-Carriers’ National Association, pointed out, by fear that postmasters will work them three or four hours, then lay them over for that length of time, and then finish their day’s work by allowing this interval of one or two hours….Whereas under the then regime carriers’ workday ranged from nine to 14 hours, under their proposal, the carriers would “know positively when their day’s work is done.
On May 24, 1888, the act was approved, creating in effect an overtime law, with hours beyond eight paid without a penalty to the post office or premium to the worker. Specifically, it provided that hereafter eight hours shall constitute a day’s work for letter-carriers in cities, for which they shall receive the same pay now as for a day’s work of a greater number of hours. If any letter-carrier is employed a greater number of hours per day than eight he shall be paid extra for the same in proportion to the salary now fixed by law. On July Fourth, thousands of letter carriers, some delegations coming from as far away as Washington and Baltimore, celebrated its passage with a parade in New York City before enthusiastic crowds.
- Linder, M. (2004). “Time and a Half’s the American Way”. Iowa: Fanpìhuà Press .