Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is calling for the standard work week to be shortened from five to four days.
On Twitter on Tuesday, Sanders said that technological advancements allow for less labor from workers, but are currently only used to pad the pockets of corporate executives.
“With exploding technology and increased worker productivity, it’s time to move toward a four-day work week with no loss of pay,” he wrote. “Workers must benefit from technology, not just corporate CEOs.”
The senator shared an article detailing the results of a four-day work week trial that was recently run in the U.K. The six-month trial consisted of 61 companies and organizations, encompassing around 3,000 workers.
The experiment, run by 4 Day Work Week Global, was a success for the vast majority of the participants, with benefits for staff retention, work life balance and gender equality, and with little impact to productivity. At the end of the trial, 56 of the companies said they would be continuing with a four-day work week going forward.
Sanders further elaborated on his stance on shortening the work week in a CBS News interview on Sunday. The current “revolution” in technology puts millions of workers at risk of losing their jobs, while executives are able to hoard even more wealth, he said.
In terms of technology, “we’re talking about a transformational moment throughout the world and the United States. I want working people to be involved,” he said.
“If there is a technology that can increase worker productivity, who benefits from that? Just the guy who owns the company? Or does the worker benefit?” he continued. “So if we can reduce the workweek, is that a bad thing? It’s a good thing. But I don’t want to see the people on top simply be the only beneficiaries of this revolution in technology.”
Labor unions and even corporate groups have said that a four-day work week could soon become standard. In an Ernst & Young survey in 2022, 40 percent of companies surveyed about the “future of work” said they either already have a four-day work week or are working toward implementing one.
The 40-hour, five-day work week wasn’t always the standard for a full-time worker in the U.S. — in the 1800s, it was typical for workers to work six or all seven days of the week, with extremely long work days. Thanks to labor unions, however — and their famous May Day strike — the U.S. work day was shortened to eight hours in the late 1800s. Congress later shortened the standard work week to 40 hours, spread over five days, in 1940.
Though productivity is now higher than ever, compensation for workers has lagged far behind since the precipitous rise of U.S. neoliberalism in the 1980s; according to the Economic Policy Institute, while productivity has risen by 65 percent since the late 1970s, hourly pay has only risen by 18 percent. At the same time, CEOs, reaping the benefits of increased worker productivity, saw their pay skyrocket by a staggering 1,460 percent.
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