Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator and Chairman of the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, called once again for a move to a four-day work week following one of the country’s largest sectors of workers threatening to strike over poor wages and working hours.
That comes as 150,000 members of the United Auto Workers (UAW), one of the biggest unions in the country, have threatened to strike on September 14 if the Big 3 U.S. automakers — General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis — fail to reach an agreement on a four-day workweek at full-time pay and a 46% wage increase, among other demands.
So far, the company’s counteroffers to the union preserve the five-day workweek without any other benefit increases, such as paid vacation and family days, which were last updated in 2019, and held that workers would be “well-compensated under its offer of a 9% wage increase over the term of the contract,” ABC News reports.
Sanders has long been a vocal advocate for American workers, whom he says are 480% more productive than they were in the 1940s, when most of the laws regarding working hours were established, under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“It’s time that working families were able to take advantage of the increased productivity that new technologies provide so that they can enjoy more leisure time, family time, educational and cultural opportunities — and less stress,” Sanders writes in an op-ed on The Guardian.
Recent research on the four-day workweek has shown advantages for employees and employers alike, with fewer sick days and higher levels of retainment, with three-quarters of employees in a major U.K. trial run reporting decreased feelings of burnout — all of which, the argument goes, leads to increased productivity.
“Moving to a 32-hour work week with no loss of pay is not a radical idea. In fact, movement in that direction is already taking place in other developed countries,” Sanders writes. “France, the seventh-largest economy in the world, has a 35-hour work week and is considering reducing it to 32 hours. The work week in Norway and Denmark is about 37 hours a week.”
Sanders also points to other pilot programs that consistently show benefits for workers and companies when adopting a shorter workweek, including the large study from the U.K., with more than 60 companies participating.
“Not surprisingly, it showed that happy workers were more productive,” Sanders notes. “The pilot was so successful that 92% of the companies that participated decided to maintain a four-day work week because of the benefits to both employers and employees.”
He continues: “Needless to say, changes that benefit the working class of our country are not going to be easily handed over by the corporate elite.”
And Sanders strongly believes that the fight for a four-day workweek is necessary. “It is not utopian thinking to imagine that, for the first time in world history, we could enter a time in which every man, woman, and child has a decent standard of living and improved quality of life.”