Senator Sanders Introduces Legislation to Establish 32-Hour Work Week

March 19, 2024

On Thursday, March 14, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) convened the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to discuss new legislation he has introduced to establish a 32-hour work week with no loss in pay. UE has long supported shortening the work week, and UE policy includes the demand for just such legislation.

A 32-hour work week “is not a radical idea,” said Sanders. noting that “American workers are now over 400% more productive than they were in the 1940s.” However, Sanders continued, “Almost all of the economic gains of that technological transformation have gone straight to the top, while wages for workers have remained stagnant, or even worse.

“While CEOs are making nearly 350 times as much as their average employees, workers throughout the country are seeing their family life fall apart as they are forced to spend more and more time at work.”

The first panelist to testify at the hearing was UAW President Shawn Fain, whose union “raised the flag” for a 32-hour work week during their historic “stand up strike” against the Big Three automakers last year.

“Those who profit off the labor of others have all the time in the world,” said Fain, “while those who make this country run — the people who build the products and contribute the labor — have less and less time for themselves, for their families, for their lives.”

Fain spelled out the effects of this on working-class people in stark terms. He linked the crisis of overwork in the U.S. to the “deaths of despair, from addiction and suicide, of people who don’t feel a life of endless, hopeless work is a life worth living,” and to the widely-recognized mental health crisis in the U.S. He cited studies that the stress from working long hours “causes increases in cortisol levels, which leads to heart disease, cancer, strokes.”

“Our union is going to continue to fight for the right of working-class people to take back their lives and take back their time,” concluded Fain. “We ask you to stand up with the American workers and support us in that mission.”