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CGT poster in favor of the application of the 8 hours law
© Contemporary Collections
Publication date: October 2003
The law of 8 hours
Limiting the length of the working day to 8 hours was one of the major demands of the world of work from the 1880s. From 1890, the international demonstration on May 1 was organized around this objective. The law was passed on April 23, a week before a May 1 which he feared would kick off a powerful general strike. This poster published for May 1st gives it to see.
Continue the fight
The posters that the trade union movement publishes before the war are placards devoid of illustrations (or almost). These are on the front page of the union press. This poster is a turning point in this regard. It comes from the Union of Trade Unions of the Seine. In its center, a huge eight with, in its upper loop, the label and the acronym CGT and in the other a clock where letters are substituted for each of the twelve hours. In the background, an industrial landscape expressing a dynamic at work: the sky is the color of the sun, the factory chimneys are full of smoke, a crane loads or unloads goods and derricks, a sign of modernity, mingling with the scaffolding of constructions, along an ascending diagonal that makes movement. On either side of the clock-shaped eight, two groups of figures suspended from a rope attempt to act on time Conversely. On the left, two employees, two workers and two women, identifiable by their outfit: soft hats and suits, shirt sleeves rolled up, blacksmith's apron, digger's belt, women "in hair". They are trying to bring the minute hand back to around 8 o'clock sharp. On the right, four bourgeois wearing a top hat or bowler and a lady in a hat. The graphics create an apparent symmetry at the cost of an extra leg on the side of the employees ... But, for now, the owners weigh a little more.
A double-triggered distrust
This poster very slightly subverts a contemporary confederal poster. It reveals the differences between the central led by Léon Jouhaux, which then claimed to "participate in the affairs of the nation" and the Parisian union, where revolutionary trade unionists are in a position of strength. The major difference between the two posters is expressed in the explicit messages. We can read on the confederal poster, under the 1e rmai banner, in the margin, "Workers, employees, another effort and ...". The sentence continues on the clock thanks to the letters that make up the word: "WE WILL HAVE THEM" and, crossing out as here the clock: 8 o'clock. The plural gives way here to the singular, to better empower everyone and invite them to act. Then the text changes: "The principle is voted on but only your action ... WILL APPLY THE 8 hours". The graphics remain unchanged with one nuance: in the confederal poster, the group of workers and employees had practically brought the hand back to 8 o'clock. Optimism is less here since it is almost 8:02 am: the May 1 mobilization remains necessary
- labor law
- work time
- May 1st
Jacques JULLIARDClemenceau Strike BreakerParis, Julliard, “Archives” collection, 1965.
Jacques NIZETStrikes, workers' demonstrations, May 1st in France from 1900 to 1920Bagneux, SCF-SDC 1990 establishment committee.
Maurice AGULHONMarianne in powerParis, Flammarion, 1989.
To cite this article
Danielle TARTAKOWSKY, "The 8 hours application"