Home Depot Founder Slams Bernie Sanders’ 32-Hour Workweek Idea

By: Ben Campbell | Published: Jun 02, 2024

Bernie Sanders’ controversial 32-hour workweek plan has been slammed by the founder of one of America’s largest retail stores. 

Ken Langone, who cofounded Home Depot, has called the senator’s plan hypocritical, stating Sanders is out to take money from those who simply have more. 

Bernie Sanders 32-Hour Work Week Plan

Sen. Bernie Sanders recently introduced a bill this month that aims to shorten the traditional 40-hour work week to 32 hours, per PBS

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A photograph taken of Bernie Sanders during an event

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Essentially, Sanders’ bill would give Americans who work traditional eight-hour work days, Monday to Friday, an extra day off without reducing their pay or benefits.

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Advancements in Technology Permit More Time Off

According to Sanders’ bill, advancements in AI, robotics, and automation would permit companies to give employees more time off without cutting their salaries.

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Studies show that a 32-hour workweek could significantly increase productivity and employee satisfaction. Yet, not everyone agrees with Sanders’ proposed bill.

Home Depot Co-founder Slams Bill

Ken Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot, one of America’s largest home improvement retail chains, slammed Bernie Sanders’ new bill during an appearance on Fox News.

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An image of Ken Langone during an interview with NYU Stern

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Langone appeared outraged by Sanders’ plan, calling it hypocrisy before saying that the lifelong Democrat is pursuing people who have made more money than others.

Home Depot Couldn’t Be Started Today

According to Langone, Sanders’ proposed bill is precisely why it would be impossible for an American to start a business like Home Depot today. 

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A photograph taken of the exterior of a large Home Depot store

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“We have 3,000 kids that started out pushing carts in the lot — today, they’re multimillionaires. They’re the guys that Bernie Sanders wants to go after,” he said.

Why Sanders’ Bill Won’t Work

During the interview, Langone explained several reasons why he doesn’t believe Sanders’ bill will work. 

An image of Bernie Sanders on stage during an event

Source: Wikimedia

“A 32-hour workweek raises labor costs directly 20%. Why? Because the eight hours they’re not working, you’ve got to hire somebody else. You’re not going to squeeze 40 hours into 32 hours. That’s slave labor if you do that,” said Langone. 

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The Consumer Will Suffer the Most

Langone went on to argue that Sanders’ bill would only work by hiking the price of items, which could make up for the lost labor. 

A man in a red jacket is pictured buying an item at the hardware store

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“Who always pays for it at the end? The consumer,” he said.

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Langone Calls Sanders a Hypocrite

As the interview with Fox News continued, Langone argued that many of Sanders’ attacks against the rich were hypocritical as the Vermont native is a multimillionaire himself.

Bernie Sanders pictured alongside his wife Jane during an event

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Langone added that the far-left policies, such as those proposed by Sanders, would destroy any chance of future Americans starting a business like Home Depot. 

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Sanders’ Proposed Bill Will Have Detrimental Effects on the Economy

“Food costs are up 15% in the last two years. Who’s getting hit? The person making $75,000 a year or less,” he said

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“These are the people that get punished. Inflation is the most regressive tax of all, and people don’t seem to understand this 32-hour workweek — the costs have to be passed on, or the businesses that absorb those costs will no longer be attractive for investment because they won’t be.”

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No Problem Paying More Taxes

Speaking on plans to tax the rich, Langone says he would have no problem contributing more so long as it is spent responsibly. 

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“If you told me that they were going to raise my taxes, and then we’re going to take the proceeds of that tax increase and pay down the national debt — give it to me, baby. I’ll take that every time,” he said

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Tax Money Gets Wasted, According to Home Depot Founder

The Home Depot founder went on to say that a vast portion of America’s tax dollars are wasted.

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“My problem is what they do with the tax money they get. Pardon me — they piss it away,” said Langone.

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Sanders’ Bill Might Not Get Far

As it stands, Langone might not have to worry too much as Sanders’ bill has already received considerable backlash from Republicans and even some Democrats. 

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Many politicians have suggested it is unlikely the bill will gain any real traction in the Senate.

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European Workweek Models

In countries like Sweden and Germany, shorter workweeks have been successfully implemented. Sweden’s six-hour workday experiment showed increased productivity and employee satisfaction.

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Germany’s “Kurzarbeit” system reduces work hours during economic downturns while maintaining employment. These examples illustrate how shorter workweeks can benefit both businesses and workers without sacrificing economic stability.

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Scandinavian Success Stories

Denmark and Norway have also embraced shorter workweeks, focusing on work-life balance and employee well-being. Danish workers typically work 37 hours per week, with high productivity and job satisfaction rates.

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Norway’s approach includes flexible working hours and generous vacation policies, contributing to high living standards and a robust economy. These Scandinavian models demonstrate the viability of reduced work hours.

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French Workweek Regulations

France’s 35-hour workweek law, introduced in 2000, aims to reduce unemployment and improve quality of life. While controversial, it has led to greater leisure time and reduced stress for workers.

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Critics argue about its economic impact, but many French workers report increased job satisfaction and better work-life balance, highlighting the mixed but largely positive outcomes of such policies.

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Japanese Work Culture

In contrast, Japan’s long work hours have led to high stress and health issues among workers. The government is encouraging shorter workweeks to combat “karoshi” (death by overwork).

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Initiatives like “Premium Friday,” which allowed workers to leave early once a month, aimed to promote a healthier work-life balance, showing Japan’s potential shift towards reducing excessive work hours. However, it didn’t quite take as expected.

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South Korea's Reduction Efforts

South Korea has also faced challenges with long work hours, impacting worker health and productivity. Recent labor reforms reduced the maximum workweek from 68 to 52 hours.

South Korean flags hanging from a lamppost.

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These changes aim to enhance quality of life and boost productivity, reflecting a growing recognition of the need for better work-life balance in high-intensity work cultures.

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Impact on Global Competitiveness

Countries with shorter workweeks often rank high in global competitiveness and quality of life indices. This trend suggests that reduced work hours can coexist with economic success.

Two women working on a whiteboard with markers in an office.

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As more nations consider workweek reductions, the global workforce may see a shift towards prioritizing employee well-being and sustainable productivity, reshaping the future of work worldwide.

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AI and Automation's Role

Advancements in AI and automation are enabling businesses to maintain productivity with fewer work hours. Automated systems can handle repetitive tasks, freeing employees to focus on more complex and creative work.

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This shift not only supports a shorter workweek but also enhances job satisfaction by reducing the more mundane tasks, illustrating technology’s role in future work models.

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Remote Work and Flexibility

Technology has also revolutionized remote work, offering greater flexibility and efficiency. Tools like video conferencing, project management software, and cloud computing allow employees to work from anywhere.

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This flexibility supports shorter workweeks by enabling more efficient use of time and reducing commuting stress, highlighting how technology fosters a more adaptable and productive workforce.

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Reskilling for the Future

As automation and AI reshape job roles, reskilling and upskilling become essential. Workers need training to adapt to new technologies and tasks.

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Companies investing in employee development will benefit from a more versatile and competent workforce. This focus on continuous learning aligns with shorter workweeks by promoting efficient, technology-driven productivity and job satisfaction.

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Mental Health Improvements

A 32-hour workweek can significantly improve mental health by reducing stress and burnout. More time off allows employees to relax, pursue hobbies, and spend time with loved ones.

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Studies show that reduced work hours lead to lower anxiety and depression rates, emphasizing the mental health benefits of a more balanced work schedule.

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Enhanced Work-Life Balance

Shorter workweeks can also contribute to a better work-life balance, giving employees more time for personal activities and family. This balance boosts overall happiness and job satisfaction, leading to increased productivity and loyalty.

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Companies adopting shorter workweeks often see reduced turnover and higher employee morale, highlighting the holistic benefits of a balanced lifestyle.

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Physical Health Benefits

In addition to mental health, a shorter workweek can positively impact physical health. Less time at work reduces sedentary behavior and allows more time for exercise and healthy activities.

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Employees report fewer health issues, such as back pain and eye strain, leading to lower healthcare costs and a healthier, more energetic workforce.

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