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New Four-Day Workweek Bill Introduced to US Senate

The bill could reduce the U.S. workweek to four days, without any loss of pay.

March 20, 2024

According to a press release from the office of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a new bill being introduced into the U.S. Senate would reduce the standard U.S. workweek to four days, while retaining the same five-day pay wages for workers.

The Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act, announced last week by Sanders, mandates lowering weekly hours in the United States from 40 to 32 over the span of four years. It also includes reducing the maximum hours required for overtime compensation for nonexempt employees, as well as requiring overtime pay at time and half for employees that work more than an eight-hour day and double overtime pay for those whose workday goes beyond 12 hours.

According to the press release, Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-CA) is joining Sanders in introducing the bill to the Senate, while Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) will be introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives. Takano introduced similar legislation back in 2021 and again in 2023, without success.

“Moving to a 32-hour workweek with no loss of pay is not a radical idea,” Sanders stated in the release. “Today, American workers are over 400% more productive than they were in the 1940s. And yet, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages than they were decades ago. That has got to change. The financial gains from the major advancements in artificial intelligence, automation, and new technology must benefit the working class, not just corporate CEOs and wealthy stockholders on Wall Street. It is time to reduce the stress level in our country and allow Americans to enjoy a better quality of life. It is time for a 32-hour workweek with no loss in pay.”

The release points out that the eight-hour workday came about due to Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was first introduced into law in 1938 to establish a 44-hour workweek with overtime protections and then was revised just two years later to establish the 40-hour workweek as the federal standard. The release states that as of 2019, nearly 40% of U.S. workers clock in at least 50 hours a week and 18% work at least 60 hours a week.

While the release states that the act is endorsed by several labor unions, including AFL-CIO, UAW, SEIU, AFA-CWA, UFCW, as well organizations including 4 Day Week Global, WorkFour, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), and the National Employment Law Project (NELP), it’s not without its critics.

According to NBC News, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) countered that a 32-hour workweek with the same pay as a 40-hour week could be detrimental to small businesses, restaurants, and trades.

“We have a balance. We don’t have people as they do in China working 80 hours a week, but we have that balance. [This act] disrupts that balance,” Cassidy told NBC. “And we won’t maintain the status of being the world’s wealthiest nation if we kneecap the American economy with something which purports to be good for the American worker but indeed will lead to offshoring of jobs seeking for a lower-cost labor force.”

But, according to NPR, proof exists of the shorter workweek’s success. An experiment of a 32-hour workweek, led by the organizations in support of the shorter workweek—4 Day Week Global, 4-Day Week Campaign, and progressive research organization Autonomy—was held in 2022 in the United Kingdom (see 4-Day Workweek on Trial in United Kingdom).

After six months, 54 of the 61 companies that participated elected to continue with the shorter workweek, with a little more than half deciding to make it permanent. Improved physical and mental health, work-life balance, and general life satisfaction, as well as burnout reduction, were all noted as benefits that resulted from the four-day workweek.

“Increasing evidence firmly supports that reducing working hours yields beneficial outcomes for businesses, individuals, and the broader community,” stated Dr. Dale Whelehan, 4 Day Week Global CEO, in Sanders’ press release.

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