32-Hour Workweek? Some Senators Say Yes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In 1940, the Fair Labor Standards Act was amended to limit the work week to 48 hours. 

Now, nearly 85 years later, Senator Bernie Sanders (I- VT) is pushing Congress to reduce the work week to 32 hours. He says a lot has changed in the last 84 years.  

“Who is going to deny that the economy has not fundamentally and radically changed over that period of time,” said Sanders. 

Despite advances in technology and productivity, Sanders says Americans are working longer hours for less pay. 

“So many people are going to work exhausted- physically and mentally,” said Sanders. 

Sanders says working class Americans are getting more burnt out as corporate leaders line their pockets with profits. He says it’s taking a toll on the health of the nation. 

“If you’re working class in this country, you’re going to live ten years fewer than you will if you are upper class. These are issues that have got to be discussed,” said Sanders. 

“There are benefits to shorter working hours,” said Shawn Fain, International President of Union Auto Workers (UAW). 

Fain says more and more workers are getting stretched thin by employers. 

“With the advances in technology, the companies choose to eliminate jobs and squeeze more and more people, the remaining people, working them more and more hours and that just doesn’t work,” said Fain. 

The Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act would also require overtime pay at time-and-a-half for workdays longer than eight hours, and double pay for workdays longer than twelve hours. 

But those opposed to the concept say it would negatively impact small businesses by limiting their flexibility.  

“This doesn’t work for small business. It doesn’t work for any type of business. Let the market decide this. Don’t have Congress impose this on employers or employees,” said Roger King, the Senior Labor and Employment Counsel for the HR Policy Association during a recent Senate committee hearing. 

“A small business needs to have flexibility. The employer needs them sometimes more than eight, sometimes less,” said King. 

Northwest Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly (R- PA) agrees. 

“I think it needs a lot more of a look. Again, easy to talk about, hard to implement,” said Kelly. “It is very easy for people living in this bubble called Washington, DC to decide on all these different policies. I’d say, ‘that’s interesting I don’t know how you came up with that, but have you ever done that, have you ever been in the private sector,’” he added. 

Kelly is skeptical about the bill’s chances of succeeding any time soon. 

“Well, I don’t think it’ll ever get that far, I really don’t,” said Kelly.