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Bernie Sanders unveils 32-hour workweek bill

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday introduced a bill to establish a standard four-day workweek in the United States without any reduction in pay.

The bill, over a four-year period, would lower the threshold required for overtime pay, from 40 hours to 32 hours. It would require overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times a worker’s regular salary for workdays longer than 8 hours, and it would require overtime pay at double a worker’s regular salary for workdays longer than 12 hours.

The Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act would also protect workers’ pay and benefits to ensure there’s no loss in pay, according to a press release.

A press release described the legislation as “an important step toward ensuring that workers share in the massive increase in productivity driven by artificial intelligence, automation, and new technology.”

“Moving to a 32-hour workweek with no loss of pay is not a radical idea,” Sanders said in a press release. “Today, American workers are over 400 percent 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,” he wrote.

Sanders introduced the legislation with Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), and Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) introduced companion legislation in the House.

“While CEOs’ wages continue to increase, our workers are finding themselves doing more, yet earning less than they have in decades,” Butler wrote in a statement. “The Thirty-Two-Hour Workweek Act would allow hardworking Americans to spend more time with their families while protecting their wages and making sure profits aren’t only going to a select few.”

Takano, in a statement, described the bill as “transformative legislation that will be a win for both workers and workplaces.”

Sanders, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, introduced the legislation ahead of his committee’s hearing Thursday on the same topic. The committee will hear from United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain, among other witnesses.

In the announcement, Sanders cited several pilot programs and studies that show productivity improving with a four-day workweek. The studies largely found that because workers were happier, they were more productive and were less likely to get burned out.

Sanders also pointed to other countries that have already made the move toward shortening workweeks. France has a 35-hour workweek and is considering moving to a 32-hour workweek, and Norway and Denmark have workweeks of about 37 hours.

The Fair Labor Standards Act was signed into law in 1938 and established a 44-hour workweek, establishing the first broadly applicable federal standard. Two years later, the legislation phased in the 40-hour workweek that exists today.

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