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32-hour Work Week Bill Is Back in US Congress

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Stressed at work - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.03.2023
Earlier this month, the House saw the introduction of the "Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act" by progressives attempting to reduce the standard workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours for the second time.
The proposed legislation, put forward by Representative Mark Takano (D-Calif.), seeks to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act and decrease the standard workweek by eight hours for non-exempt workers who currently receive overtime pay for working more than 40 hours per week.
The bill would result in either a shorter workweek or increased overtime pay for hourly workers. While it may not have an immediate impact on salaried workers in office and tech jobs if passed, Takano believes it could start the wave of changes in all sectors.
"The 32-hour workweek discussion is already occurring in certain sectors of the economy. … Panasonic went to a 32-hour workweek. Kickstarter is a company that has explored this and one of their executives is a cheerleader for this whole movement," he said. "What we need to examine is how this can become the norm across the various workforces in America."
Supporters argue that studies on four-day workweeks have shown improvements in workers' quality of life without compromising productivity. They also point out that despite significant technological advances that increase output in all industries, the workweek has remained unchanged since 1940.
To become law, the bill must pass through the House Education and the Workforce Committee, of which Takano is a member. However, the chair, Republican Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, has expressed her disapproval of "top-down" legislation, stating that federal regulations can harm industries, communities, and small businesses.
"One of my top priorities as the Chairwoman of the Education and the Workforce Committee is the creation of policies that promote flexibility and choices for workers and job creators," Foxx said in a statement to US media. "However, blanket federal regulations often cause more harm than good and do not account for the unique needs of industries, communities, and small businesses. Main Street America is still recovering from pandemic-era shutdowns—it does not need more top-down federal mandates."
The bill was initially introduced in July 2021, but failed to progress beyond the Committee on Education and the Workforce.
With Republicans now controlling the House, the bill will face an even steeper climb.
Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, stated that policies that prioritize corporate profits over working people must be changed.
"While policies enacted by President Biden and Democrats have finally started to raise wages for workers across multiple industries, it’s vital that health, well-being, and basic human dignity are valued over employers’ bottom lines. Establishing a 32-hour work week would go a long way toward finally righting that balance," she said.
The bill has received endorsement from the labor unions and the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, which supports the implementation of shorter workweeks in companies.
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