There’s been another effort to make a shorter workweek the new norm and it could be gaining momentum in Congress.  Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) introduced a bill that establishes a standard 32-hour workweek which would result in no loss in pay.  In support of his efforts, Mr. Sanders has stated, “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.”  It has also been noted that current technology increases productivity; however, that has not translated to more leisure time for workers. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law in 1938.  This Act established minimum wage, and overtime pay, and led to the standard 40-hour workweek, among other things.  However, according to a 2019 Gallup poll, more than half of adults working full-time report working more than 40 hours.  A reduced workweek would allow for a better quality of life.  If the 32-hour workweek becomes the law, it would require overtime pay at a rate of time and one-half for any hours worked above 32 hours.  The lower overtime threshold would encourage businesses to either pay workers more for longer hours or shorten the workweek and hire more people. 

The shorter workweek has been tested at more than 70 British companies, who report there has been no loss in productivity.  Additionally, employees were less stressed and had better work-life balance and improved health.  Enhanced job satisfaction was also noted.  Companies also reported that revenue largely stayed the same during the trial period and even grew.

The legislation was first introduced in 2021.  This bill has received endorsements from the AFL/CIO, United Auto Workers, and other labor unions.  However, it remains to be seen whether the bill will gain enough support to become a federal law.

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