(NEXSTAR) – The “Thirty-Two-Hour Workweek Act” was introduced in the House earlier this month, as progressives try for a second time to shorten the standard workweek from 40 hours to 32.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), proposes amending the Fair Labor Standards Act to shorten the standard workweek by eight hours for non-exempt employees. (A non-exempt employee is someone who is currently entitled to overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a week.)
It would effectively mean either shorter workweeks or more overtime pay for hourly workers. While the law, if passed, wouldn’t immediately impact salaried workers in office and tech jobs, Takano told the Washington Post he believed it would contribute to a culture shift across all industries.
“The 32-hour workweek discussion is already occurring in certain sectors of the economy. … Panasonic went to a 32-hour workweek. Kickstarter is a company that has explored this and one of their executives is a cheerleader for this whole movement,” he said. “What we need to examine is how this can become the norm across the various workforces in America.”
The bill would need to pass out of the House Education and the Workforce Committee to advance toward becoming law. Takano, a Democrat, is a member of the committee. The committee’s chair is Republican Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, who signaled she’s not a fan of the “top-down” legislation.
“One of my top priorities as the Chairwoman of the Education and the Workforce Committee is the creation of policies that promote flexibility and choices for workers and job creators,” Foxx said in a statement to Nexstar. “However, blanket federal regulations often cause more harm than good and do not account for the unique needs of industries, communities, and small businesses. Main Street America is still recovering from pandemic-era shutdowns—it does not need more top-down federal mandates.”
When the bill was first introduced in July 2021, it was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce but didn’t go anywhere from there.
Since then, Republicans have taken control of the House, making the bill’s path forward even more challenging.
Proponents say early studies of four-day workweeks have resulted in quality-of-life improvements for workers without sacrificing productivity.
They point out the length of the workweek hasn’t changed since 1940, despite massive improvements in technology that allow higher output across industries.
“For too long, our country has prioritized corporate profits over working people and Americans have been forced to work longer hours, sacrificing time with loved ones. While policies enacted by President Biden and Democrats have finally started to raise wages for workers across multiple industries, it’s vital that health, well-being, and basic human dignity are valued over employers’ bottom lines. Establishing a 32-hour work week would go a long way toward finally righting that balance,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in a statement.
The bill is endorsed by 4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit that helps companies implement shorter workweeks, as well as several labor unions.