January 5 is the anniversary of 3 landmark events – Ford Motor establishing a $5 daily wage (twice today’s minimum wage when adjusted for inflation), Wyoming swearing in the nation’s first woman governor and the beginning of Prague Spring. It is also the day of the only NBA game to be postponed due to rain – when a leaky roof at Seattle’s Coliseum led referees to postpone the game.
Ford Adopts 8/Hr Work Day and $5 Daily Wage
Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford introduced a minimum wage scale of $5 per day which was more than double the wages for most employees. He also offered profit sharing to employees who lived a clean lifestyle, reduced the daily worker’s shift to eight hours from nine and declared that no employee would “be discharged except for proved unfaithfulness or irremediable inefficiency.”
The New York Times described Ford’s decision as “one of the most remarkable business moves of his entire remarkable career,” which included the development of the Model T and using a moving assembly line in his factories.
Ford’s treasurer, James Couzens explained
It is our belief that social justice begins at home. We want those who have helped us to produce this great institution and are helping to maintain it to share our prosperity. We want them to have present profits and future prospects. … Believing as we do, that a division of our earnings between capital and labor is unequal, we have sought a plan of relief suitable for our business.
It is worth noting that adjusting the scale for inflation would yield a wage of $15.75 an hour or more than double the current federal minimum wage of $7.25.
Wyoming’s Nellie Ross Sworn in as First Woman Governor
Wyoming, the first state to give women the vote, became the first state to elect a woman Governor. Nellie Ross, a Democrat, was elected following the death of her husband and sworn in on this day. She narrowly lost her re-election bid in 1926. In 1993, she was appointed Director of the United States Mint by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 and served until 1953.
Dubček’s Elevation Begins “Prague Spring”
Alexander Dubček becomes First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and leader of the nation. Dubček sought to liberalize the Communist government—creating “socialism with a human face”. His reforms, such as allowing greater freedom of expression and tolerating political and social organizations not under Communist control, became known as “Prague Spring”. These reforms would be crushed by invading Warsaw Pact forces in August 1968.
NBA Seattle Supersonics Game Postponed Due to Rain
Seattle, a city famous for its rainy days, was once home to the National Basketball Association’s Seattle Supersonics (who moved to Oklahoma City in 2008). Naturally, the Sonics became the first NBA team to have a game postponed due to rain when a leaky roof at Seattle’s Coliseum led the referees to suspend its game against the Phoenix Suns 64 seconds into the second quarter with the Suns leading 35-24. The teams continued the game the next day with Phoenix winning 117-114.