Skip to content Skip to footer

Sanders Introduces Bill to Establish 32-Hour Workweek in US With No Loss of Pay

Major labor unions, including the UAW and the AFL-CIO, have endorsed the new legislation.

Committee chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on Capitol Hill on January 18, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday introduced legislation that would establish a 32-hour workweek in the U.S. with no loss of pay, a change the Vermont senator said is necessary to ensure the working class benefits from massive productivity gains and technological advances.

A 32-hour workweek “is not a radical idea,” Sanders, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said in a statement, noting that productivity gains have far outpaced wage growth in recent decades.

“Today, American workers are over 400% 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,” said Sanders. “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,” Sanders added. “It is time for a 32-hour workweek with no loss in pay.”

Sanders introduced the Senate bill alongside Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.). Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who has led 32-hour workweek bills in previous sessions, unveiled companion legislation in the House.

“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,” Takano said Wednesday.

The legislation was introduced shortly after Sanders announced that the Senate HELP Committee — which he chairs — will hold a hearing Thursday on the idea of a 32-hour workweek, which has gained traction among labor leaders and lawmakers amid promising experimental results.

Thursday’s hearing will feature testimony from United Auto Workers (UAW) president Shawn Fain — whose initial contract demands to the Big Three automakers included a 32-hour workweek — and Juliet Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College who has led a team researching four-day workweek trials across the globe.

“Our research suggests that the four-day, 32-hour week is not only feasible; it’s better for workers and employers,” Shor wrote in a recent op-ed with fellow Boston College professor Wen Fan. “Of more than 100 companies with thousands of workers around the world, nearly 70% experienced reduced rates of burnout. Stress fell. Reported physical and mental health improved. People felt less anxious and fatigued, exercised more, and slept better. Their life satisfaction rose, and conflicts among work, family, and life plummeted.”

According to a summary released by Sanders’ office, the new legislation would:

  • Reduce the standard workweek from 40 to 32 hours over four years by lowering the maximum hours threshold for overtime compensation for non-exempt employees.
  • Require overtime pay at time and a half for workdays longer than eight hours, and overtime pay at double a worker’s regular pay for workdays longer than 12 hours; and
  • Protect workers’ pay and benefits to ensure that a reduction in the workweek does not cause a loss in pay.

Major labor unions, including the UAW and the AFL-CIO, have endorsed the new legislation, as has 4 Day Week Global, a group that has organized four-day workweek pilot programs in the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, and other countries.

“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 endeavor spearheaded by Senator Bernie Sanders, marking further progress towards a future of work that prioritizes sustainable human performance and well-being.”

Join us in defending the truth before it’s too late

The future of independent journalism is uncertain, and the consequences of losing it are too grave to ignore. To ensure Truthout remains safe, strong, and free, we need to raise $48,000 in the next 8 days. Every dollar raised goes directly toward the costs of producing news you can trust.

Please give what you can — because by supporting us with a tax-deductible donation, you’re not just preserving a source of news, you’re helping to safeguard what’s left of our democracy.