Bernie Sanders Advocates for 32-Hour, Four-Day Workweek Bill

Bernie Sanders champions a revolutionary shift in labor norms.

by Nouman Rasool
Bernie Sanders Advocates for 32-Hour, Four-Day Workweek Bill
© Joe Maher/Getty Images

In a significant move aimed at transforming the American work landscape, Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, presided over a hearing this Thursday to deliberate on a groundbreaking piece of legislation he recently introduced.

The proposed bill, known as the "Thirty-Two Hour Work Week Act," seeks to revolutionize the current standard by reducing the U.S. workweek from the longstanding 40 hours to a more manageable 32 hours, spread over four years.

This ambitious initiative also plans to adjust the threshold for overtime pay, requiring compensation at time and a half for workdays exceeding eight hours and doubling the pay for days longer than twelve hours. This legislative effort was highlighted in a press statement, emphasizing it as a crucial stride toward allowing workers to reap the benefits of the technological evolution that has markedly boosted productivity and economic growth.

"The transition to a 32-hour workweek without a reduction in pay is far from a radical notion," Sanders articulated, drawing attention to the stark contrast between the current state of American labor and its productivity leap of over 400% since the 1940s.

Despite this significant advancement, a vast number of American workers find themselves in a paradox, working more hours for lesser wages than their predecessors several decades ago—a trend Sanders is determined to reverse.

Empowering Workers' Wealth

Sanders passionately argued that the wealth generated from advancements in artificial intelligence, automation, and new technologies should enrich the working populace, not solely the upper echelon of corporate executives and affluent Wall Street investors.

"It's time to alleviate the stress pervading our nation and elevate the quality of life for Americans through a 32-hour workweek at unchanged pay. I am eager for the ensuing discussions this week," he stated. The bill is co-sponsored by Senator Laphonza Butler, a Democrat from California, with Representative Mark Takano, also a Democrat from California, introducing a similar bill in the House.

In his capacity as the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sanders has extended invitations to Shawn Fain, President of the United Auto Workers; Juliet Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College; and Jon Leland, the chief strategy officer at Kickstarter and co-founder of the Four Day Workweek Campaign, to provide their insights at the hearing.

Sanders also cited studies underscoring a disconcerting trend: average American workers today earn less in weekly wages, after adjusting for inflation, than they did 50 years ago, while CEO compensation has skyrocketed to hundreds of times more than that of their employees.

He argues that it's high time for working families to enjoy the fruits of increased productivity through more leisure, family time, educational pursuits, cultural activities, and reduced stress. Pointing to countries like France, Norway, and Denmark, which have successfully implemented shorter workweeks, as well as pilot programs demonstrating heightened productivity and worker satisfaction, Sanders bolstered his case for the bill.

During Thursday's hearing, he spotlighted international productivity metrics to underscore the potential benefits of adopting a shorter workweek in the U.S.