Sanders to Introduce Bill Shortening Workweek to Four Days

By: Rachel Looker; USA Today

WASHINGTON − There’s a revived effort on Capitol Hill to make a shorter workweek the new norm.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced Wednesday he will introduce a bill to establish a standard 32-hour workweek that would result in no loss in pay.

Sanders, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, will introduce the legislation Thursday during a hearing on the need for a shorter workweek.

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

Sanders’ bill pushes for four-day workweek

The legislation amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to reduce the standard workweek from 40 hours per week to 32 hours per week. It would also allow employees to be compensated time and half for working beyond 32 hours.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law in 1938 which established minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and youth employment standards. The bill led to the standard 40-hour workweek most Americans are familiar with today.

More than half of adults employed full time reported working more than 40 hours per week, according to a 2019 Gallup poll.

“It is time to reduce the stress level in our country and allow Americans to enjoy a better quality of life,” Sanders said.

Rep. Takano introduced 4-day workweek bill last year

This isn’t the first time Congress has pushed for a four-day work week.

Progressive Democrats last year renewed a push to make four-day workweeks federal law, with lead sponsor Rep. Mark Takano of California saying the change will give Americans more time “to live, play, and enjoy life more fully outside of work.”

Takano, a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, introduced a similar bill last year to Sanders’ legislation that would reduce the standard workweek from 40 hours to 32, effectively ending the traditional five-day cycle. It would also require overtime pay at a rate of time and half for any employee who works more than 32 hours in one week. 

His bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

The legislation followed a shift in workplace trends after the COVID-19 pandemic influenced conversations about what the future of work may look like. More than 70 British companies started to test a four-day workweek last year, and most respondents reported there has been no loss in productivity.

Takano introduced similar legislation in 2021, but it was not voted on in the House or Senate. 

Could it become law?

Sanders’ bill is backed by Sen. Laphonza Butler, D-Calif., and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., who introduced companion legislation in the House.

It also has received the endorsement of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, United Auto Workers, the Service Employees International Union, the Association of Flight Attendants and several other labor unions.

While Sanders’ role as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee places a greater focus on shortening the workweek, it is unlikely the bill will garner enough support from Republicans to become federal law and pass in both chambers.