Huge news for people who want a shorter workweek: the Congressional Progressive Caucus officially endorsed the Thirty-Two-Hour Workweek Act, a bill introduced by California Representative Mark Takano in July. The endorsement is another major signal of support of the radical way of reimagining the workweek — a move that would reconnect the link between productivity and working hours in the United States, and a move that would be a win for parents struggling to get their work-life balance back on track.
The bill would decrease the federally recognized workweek from 40 hours per week to 32 hours per week and mandates time-and-a-half overtime pay for anything beyond the 32-hour mark. The change would, however, not apply to gig workers or exempt salaried employees who are not eligible for overtime pay. The bill was co-sponsored by a who’s who of progressive democrats including Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Chuy García (D-IL).
The endorsement is just one step in what looks like a global process towards reorienting the workweek. Countries around the globe are currently testing a 32-hour-work-week — Iceland just completed a major trial that was a booming success. Icelandic workers claimed the shorter workweek gave them more time for rest, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones while work output remained unchanged or even increased in some cases. Major companies have done the same programs to similar results.
For parents, this bill would mean more time with their families and an increased work-life balance. Also, in light of our recent history of long-term school closures, parents would likely have more flexibility in accomodating the changing school landscape as well. “After a nearly two-year-long pandemic that forced millions of people to explore remote work options, it’s safe to say that we can’t – and shouldn’t – simply go back to normal, because normal wasn’t working,” Takano said in a statement. “People were spending more time at work, less time with loved ones, their health and well-being were worsening, and all the while, their pay has remained stagnant. This is a serious problem.”
The five-day-a-week forty-hour workweek was introduced by Congress in 1940 as a way to combat exploitative labor practices adopted during and after the Industrial Revolution. The Fair Labor Standards Act not only established the workweek as we know it but also required overtime pay for work in excess of 44 hours. The law was amended to 40 hours two years later. The act was passed during a time when single-income families were the norm and having one parent at home was not unusual.
As the American work landscape changed, the idea of a 40-hour workweek is not as sustainable as it once was and has led to increases in worker burnout and decreased job satisfaction. Parents are working longer hours for sometimes stagnant wages while struggling to make ends meet, and make work-life balance “work.”
The bill will be considered by House committees before being brought to the floor for a vote. If the bill passes through the House, it must be approved by the Senate before becoming a law.