Bernie Sanders Wants to Change American Workweek to 32 Hours in New Bill

By: Alex Trent | Published: Mar 15, 2024

Vermont representative Bernie Sanders is leading the charge to reduce the American workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours in a new bill.

The bill would ensure that Americans are still paid the same as if they had been working 40 hours. It will also protect other benefits they would have gotten from working that amount of time. Sanders cites the fact that American workers are more productive than ever and that they deserve a much-needed raise.

Statement from Sanders

Bernie Sanders announced the legislation he plans to champion in an official statement on his website. In the statement, he emphasized that this move to a shorter workweek will not result in a loss of pay for American workers.

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Bernie Sanders speaks to a crowd on stage.

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

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Americans Are More Productive

As a preemptive response to predicted criticism, Sanders makes the case for why American workers deserve a shorter workweek and how they have been suffering under flat wages.

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“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,” the statement reads.

Financial Gains Kept from Americans

Sanders argues that many of the fruits of the increased production from American workers have been stolen from them by the wealthiest in the country. This bill he feels will help workers take some of those benefits back.

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“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,” he said.

Reducing Stress in the Workplace

Another argument Sanders touts in his statement is that American workers deserve to have less stressful work weeks. More free time away from work could help the American workforce immensely.

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“It is time to reduce the stress level in our country and allow Americans to enjoy a better quality of life. It is time for a 32-hour workweek with no loss in pay,” Sanders says.

No Free Time

American workers are producing more but have for years not been getting enough free time for leisure and living their lives. 

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A study in 2015 found that nearly half of the American workforce were not getting enough free time and things have not improved since. Workers are still spending more and more time at their jobs with little in the way of extra benefits for their efforts.

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A Melding of Work and Real Life

Advances in technology in recent years mean that the average American worker is never truly off the clock. They now have to answer phone calls, text messages, and emails from their job at all times of the day. 

A woman sat at her desk doing some calculations on her phone while working on her laptop. She has some small piles of money next to her.

Source: Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels

Gone are the days when someone goes to the office for a 9 to 5 and then completely logs off for the day.

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Families Declining

The lack of sufficient free time and the struggles of wealth inequality have left many Americans without the ability to create the families that they want. People are increasingly delaying having kids to focus on their careers.

A family holds hands and walks together in green grass during the daytime.

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The result is that fewer two-parent families are being formed and those who do have kids are having far fewer of them. Experts predict that family sizes will continue to shrink by as much as 35% in the near future.

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What Does the Bill Offer?

The bill introduced by Bernie Sanders will require overtime compensation for employees who have to work longer than 8 hours a day. They will also receive double their pay rate for workdays that last longer than 12 hours. 

Bernie Sanders pauses and looks over a crowd in 2016.

Source: Shelly Prevost/Wikimedia

This bill also has provisions for protecting worker benefits and overall pay with the shorter work week. It plans to reduce the standard workweek from 40 to 32 hours over four years through this overtime pay threshold.

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Following Other Countries

While some may view this kind of major change as radical, Sanders asserts that several other countries have made similar changes. France has a 35-hour workweek and there are already talks to reducing it further to 32 hours. Denmark and Norway also boast a shorter 37-hour workweek. 

A map of Earth marked with the area where the European Union is.

Source: S. Solberg J./Wikimedia

With that said, none of these countries have economies that come close to the United States, so circumstances aren’t exactly equal. 

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Takano's Comments

Representative Mark Takano made comments throwing his support behind the push for a 32-hour workweek.

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“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.

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Criticism of the Bill

While the bill has some supporters, critics have pointed out that reducing work hours at a business is not an easy task. Companies are struggling under the same conditions workers are suffering under and it will be difficult for some to reduce their working hours while still paying the same wages to employees.

A group of construction workers standing together with yellow hats.

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“Companies need to produce the same level of work, so they may need to hire and train more people,” Mary Elizabeth Elkordy, founder of Elkordy Global Strategies, said in an a Fox interview.

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