Enacting 32-Hour Workweek With No Loss In Pay: Will This Bring Back Paid Lunch Breaks? Sen. Sanders Hoping For Progress To Allow Workers To Share In Fruits Of Labor

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Sanders Introduces Legislation to Enact a 32-Hour Workweek with No Loss in Pay

Editor’s note: NY Labor Law 162 provides for mandatory meal periods, but these meal periods are not required to be paid. In order to meet these requirements, most employers have adopted a nine hour work day, with an hour unpaid lunch period at an employer determined time. 

WASHINGTON, March 13 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) today announced that this Thursday he will introduce legislation to establish a standard 32-hour workweek in America with no loss in pay – an important step toward ensuring that workers share in the massive increase in productivity driven by artificial intelligence, automation, and new technology. Sanders is joined on the Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act in the Senate by Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) and in the House of Representatives by Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) who introduced companion legislation.

“Moving to a 32-hour workweek with no loss of pay is not a radical idea,” said Sen. Sanders. “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. It is time for a 32-hour workweek with no loss in pay.”

This legislation comes ahead of a HELP Committee hearing Chairman Sanders is leading this Thursday on the same issue. Witnesses who are set to testify at the hearing include Shawn Fain, International President of the UAW; Dr. Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology at Boston College and Lead Researcher Four Day Week Global Trials; and Jon Leland, Chief Strategy Officer of Kickstarter and Cofounder of the WorkFour-The National Campaign for the 4-day Workweek.


“While CEOs’ wages continue to increase, our workers are finding themselves doing more, yet earning less than they have in decades,” said Sen. Butler. “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.”

Rep. Takano said: “As the lead sponsor of the Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act in the House of Representatives and a Senior Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, I am thrilled Senator Sanders is leading the Senate companion to this transformative legislation that will be a win for both workers and workplaces.”

In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) into law establishing the 44-hour workweek through overtime protections – the first broadly applicable federal standard for working hours in the U.S. Just two years later, the FLSA phased-in today’s 40-hour workweek to the American people, which has remained the federal standard ever since. Before these federal labor standards were established, workers – including children – in the early 19th century were on the job more than 70 hours a week, often in horrendous and dangerous working conditions. In the late 1800s, workers conducted major strikes for an 8-hour workday, coining the historic slogan, “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what you will.”

Today, American workers are more than 400 percent more productive than they were in the 1940s. However, millions of Americans are now working longer hours for lower wages. As of 2019, nearly 40 percent of U.S. workers are on the job at least 50 hours a week, and a staggering 18 percent – or 28.5 million workers – are clocking at least 60 hours a week. The average full-time worker in the U.S. now works 42 hours a week – although this estimate does not necessarily account for those working multiple jobs. On top of this, more than 8 million Americans work multiple jobs, with 4.7 million working a second part-time job on top of a full-time job.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, and Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, predicted last year that advancements in technology would lead to a three or three-and-a-half-day workweek in the coming years. Despite these predictions, Americans now work more hours than the people of most other wealthy nations, but are earning less per week than they did 50 years ago, after adjusting for inflation.

The Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act is endorsed by: AFL-CIO, UAW, SEIU, AFA-CWA, UFCW, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), 4 Day Week Global, WorkFour, and the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

“This bill underscores the escalating trend towards diminishing work hours,” said Dr. Dale Whelehan, CEO of 4 Day Week Global. “Increasing evidence firmly supports that reducing working hours yields beneficial outcomes for businesses, individuals, and the broader community. At 4 Day Week Global, we are thrilled to support this endeavour spearheaded by Senator Bernie Sanders, marking further progress towards a future of work that prioritizes sustainable human performance and well-being.”

“We applaud Senator Sanders’ bold initiative that will create a better life for all Americans,” said Vishal Reddy, Executive Director of WorkFour – the national campaign for the 4-day workweek. “100 years ago, critics of the 5-day workweek predicted doom, as they worried that a weekend would set the United States’ economy back. Instead, it helped launch us to the front of the global pack by creating a thriving middle class. Once the 4-day workweek becomes a reality, every American will have nearly six years returned to them over their lifetime. That’s six additional years to spend with their children and families, volunteer in their communities, learn new skills, and take care of their health. The data shows that the 4-day workweek is a triple-dividend policy that benefits everyone – workers, companies, and society. Now is the time to act.”

Read the bill summary, here.
Read the bill text, here.

Banner Image: Time. Image Credit – geralt


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Senator Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is serving his third term in the U.S. Senate after winning re-election in 2018. His previous 16 years in the House of Representatives make him the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history.

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