Bernie Sanders wants the US to adopt a 32-hour workweek. Could workers and companies benefit?

Bernie Sanders Advocates for 32-Hour Workweek: Exploring Potential Benefits for Employees and Employers

In Washington, the concept of a 40-hour workweek has been the norm for over eighty years. However, a new proposal is on the table that could change the lives of hourly workers by granting them an additional day off.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent known for his far-left stance from Vermont, has recently put forward a bill. This bill aims to reduce the standard workweek from 40 hours to just 32 hours. The proposal suggests that workers should receive overtime pay if they work beyond these 32 hours.

Sanders argues that with the advancements in automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence, companies in the U.S. have the capability to offer more free time to their employees without reducing their salaries or benefits.

However, there are concerns that a shorter workweek could compel companies to hire more staff or face a drop in productivity.

The essence of Sanders’ bill is quite straightforward. It seeks to shorten the workweek, ensuring that employees do not suffer a cut in their pay or benefits despite working fewer hours. This means that a typical Monday to Friday job could potentially turn into a four-day workweek, with workers still eligible for overtime if they work more than 32 hours.

Sanders envisions a gradual implementation of this change over four years. He has already initiated discussions on this proposal in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where he serves as chairman.

The impact of a shorter workweek on both employees and productivity has been a subject of study. For instance, a recent experiment in the UK with a 32-hour workweek showed that employees were less stressed and more focused, without any negative effect on company revenues. In another study by 4 Day Week Global, a significant majority of workers reported feeling less burned out, and nearly half were more satisfied with their jobs.

Despite these positive outcomes, critics argue that a 32-hour workweek may not be feasible for all industries, especially those that rely heavily on manual labor.

In Washington, the proposal faces significant opposition, making its passage through the Senate unlikely. Similarly, a companion bill in the House faces challenges in the GOP-controlled chamber.

The push for a shorter workweek is not new but is part of a long history of labor movements striving for better working conditions. From the 1830s, workers have fought for shorter workdays, leading to significant reforms over the years, including the eight-hour workday for government employees initiated by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1869 and for railroad workers in 1916.

Henry Ford’s adoption of a 40-hour workweek in 1926 for his assembly workers, well before it became a federal mandate, highlights the ongoing conversation about the balance between work and leisure.

This proposal by Senator Sanders ignites a crucial debate on how modern advancements can facilitate a better work-life balance without compromising economic productivity.