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Bernie Sanders Proposes Four-Day Workweek With No Loss in Pay

Four on the Floor

In a new bill, Senator Bernie Sanders is pushing for a 32-hour work week that wouldn't result in a pay markdown.

As Sanders announced in a statement, the bill is geared towards helping ensure that "workers share in the massive increase in productivity driven by artificial intelligence, automation, and new technology."

The bill would amend and update the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act to change the full working week from 40 hours to 32 over the course of the next four years, with mandated pay increases and lowering of total hours staggered out over that period. It would also require overtime pay to be time-and-a-half for any workday lasting longer than eight hours.

While it's hard to imagine any representatives funded by significant business interests going for such a proposal, advocates for the four-day workweek remind us that the working world has been at such a crossroads before.

"A hundred years ago, critics of the five-day workweek predicted doom, as they worried that a weekend would set the United States’ economy back," Vishal Reddy, the executive director of WorkFour, a national four-day workweek campaign, said in the statement. "Instead, it helped launch us to the front of the global pack by creating a thriving middle class."

As Reddy claims, enacting the four-day work week wouldn't just benefit workers financially, either.

"Once the four-day workweek becomes a reality," he said, "every American will have nearly six years returned to them over their lifetime."

Chamber Of Commerce

The concept of getting years back from work is certainly provocative, though some academic critics suggest that a squeezing effect could occur during four-day workweeks in which employers increase surveillance and deadlines in an attempt to extract even more labor in shorter amounts of time than before.

Then again, AI is supposed to, as the language of the bill's announcement alludes to, streamline work more than ever before — so really, the main arguments against it would come from parties invested in keeping people working long hours and weeks.

As such, Republicans have trashed the independent senator's bill as being anti-business.

"Workers will be the ones who would pay — not get paid extra," Senator Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, told The Hill. "The government mandating a 32-hour workweek requiring businesses to increase pay at least an extra 25 percent per hour, would frankly destroy some employers."

While that very much sounds like a "them" problem, Cassidy's insistence that there's "no such thing as a free lunch" will likely ring true with enough members of both parties that the bill will be dead on arrival — but that doesn't mean its introduction isn't an important step toward making fairer working hours a reality.

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