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

The 40-hour workweek has been usual within the U.S. for greater than 8 many years. Now some individuals of Congress need to give hourly employees an difference future off.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the far-left separate from Vermont, this future offered a invoice that will trim to 32 hours the volume of moment many American citizens can paintings each and every future prior to they’re owed extra time.

Given advances in automation, robotics and artificial intelligence, Sanders says U.S. corporations can have the funds for to provide workers extra moment off with out slicing their pay and advantages.

Critics say a mandated shorter future would power many corporations to rent alternative employees or lose productiveness.

Right here’s what to learn about the problem:

The invoice Sanders offered Wednesday within the Senate would release the usual workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours. Employers could be blocked from lowering their employees’ pay and advantages to compare their misplaced hours.

That implies folk who these days paintings Monday via Friday, 8 hours in line with future, would get so as to add an difference future to their weekend. Staff eligible for extra time would receives a commission difference for exceeding 32 hours in a future.

Sanders says the worktime discounts could be phased in over 4 years. He held a listening to at the proposal Thursday within the Senate Fitness, Training, Hard work and Pensions Committee, of which Sanders is the chairman.

One fresh learn about of British corporations that affirmative to undertake a 32-hour workweek concluded that workers got here to paintings much less stressed out and extra centered pace revenues remained stable or higher.

In 2022, a crew of college researchers and the nonprofit 4 Month Day International enlisted 61 corporations to release operating hours for 6 months with out slicing wages. In a while, 71% of the two,900 employees mentioned they have been much less burned out and just about part reported being extra happy with their jobs.

In the meantime, 24 of the taking part corporations reported earnings expansion of greater than 34% over the prior six months. Just about two lot others noticed a smaller building up.

“The majority of employees register an increase in their productivity over the trial. They are more energized, focused and capable,” Juliet Shor, a Boston School sociology coach and a top researcher on the United Kingdom learn about, informed Sanders’ Senate committee.

Critics say a 32-hour workweek would possibly paintings for corporations the place workers spend maximum in their moment at computer systems or in conferences, however might be devastating for manufacturing at production crops that want hands-on employees to conserve meeting traces working.

“These are concepts that have consequences,” Roger King, of the HR Policy Association, which represents corporate human resource officers, told the Senate committee. “It just doesn’t work in many industries.”

With considerable opposition from Republicans, and potentially some Democrats, don’t expect Sanders’ proposal to get very far in the Senate. A companion bill by Democratic Rep. Mark Takano of California is likely doomed in the GOP-controlled House.

GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said paying workers the same wages for fewer hours would force employers to pass the cost of hiring more workers along to consumers.

“It would threaten millions of small businesses operating on a razor-thin margin because they’re unable to find enough workers,” said Cassidy, the ranking Republican on the committee. “Now they’ve got the same workers, but only for three-quarters of the time. And they have to hire more.”

Sanders has worn his platform because the committee’s chairman to show off law geared toward conserving heavy firms extra responsible to employees. He blamed grasping executives for pocketing difference earnings as generation has boosted laborer productiveness.

“Do we continue the trend that technology only benefits the people on top, or do we demand that these transformational changes benefit working people?” Sanders mentioned. “And one of the benefits must be a lower workweek, a 32-hour workweek.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act, signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938, restricted child labor and imposed other workplace protections that included limiting the workweek to 44 hours. The law was amended two years later to make it a 40-hour week.

The landmark law followed a century of labor-union efforts seeking protections for the many overworked people in the U.S., said Tejasvi Nagaraja, a labor historian at Cornell University’s School of Industry and Labor Relations.

“The issue of time was always as important, or more important, than money for labor unions and labor advocates,” Nagaraja said.

In the 1830s, coal miners and textile workers began pushing back against workdays of up to 14 hours. After the Civil War, the abolition of slavery caused those in the U.S. to take a fresh look at workers’ rights. Unions rallied around the slogan: “8 hours for paintings, 8 hours for remainder, 8 hours for what you are going to.”

The government took tentative steps towards proscribing operating moment. In 1869, President Ulysses S. Provide ordered an eight-hour workday for presidency workers. In 1916, Congress mandated the similar for railroad employees.

Alternative reforms got here from personal trade. In 1926, Henry Ford followed a 40-hour future for his automotive meeting employees greater than a decade prior to Congress mandated it.

Ford wrote: “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either lost time or a class privilege.”


Related Press reporter Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed.

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