Dems and Bernie Sanders Call for 32-Hour Workweek Citing AI

( – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-CA) introduced their co-authored bill on Thursday, March 14th, that would restrict the working week to just 32 hours and force employers to pay non-exempt workers overtime should they exceed that limit. The bill would see the American work week shrink from a standard of 40 hours to 32 hours over the following four years and would stipulate that weekly wages would not be cut as a result of the reduced hours.

Speaking in a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Sanders argued that Americans currently work longer hours than any other developed nation, despite recent gains in technology and productivity. Sanders, along with Democrat colleagues, said that the bill would allow ordinary people to enjoy more time with their families and their local communities and that this would allow people to find more of a sense of value and contentment in their lives.

Advocates of the shorter working week have argued that technological gains, such as artificial intelligence (AI), mean that the 40-hour work week, federally mandated as the standard week in 1940, is outdated and unnecessary. They also claim that by increasing workers’ sense of well-being, overall productivity will improve – mitigating the impact of reduced hours.

The bill has drawn plenty of criticism, however, with the co-founder of Home Depot, Ken Langone, stating that it would simply be impossible to fit 40 hours of work into 32 hours, without resorting to conditions akin to “slave labor.” Langone argued that Sanders’ bill would force companies like his to spend 20% more on employment costs as they would need to hire someone to plug the 8-hour gap left by the reduced work week.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) railed against the bill, claiming its effects would be like “napalm upon the fire of inflation,” and that it would drive many businesses into the ground. He argued that it would particularly damage those whose businesses would not benefit from the use of AI, such as family-run restaurants that need real people to staff them.

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