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Will a 32-hour work week become standard? Senators growing supportive of measure

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Nearly 85 years after the Fair Labor Standards Act set the work week at 40 hours, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is advocating for a significant change, proposing a reduction to a 32-hour work week. Citing drastic changes in the economy, advancements in technology, and an increase in worker burnout, Sanders highlighted the health toll on working-class Americans, who he says live ten years less than their upper-class counterparts due to stress and exhaustion from overwork.

The proposed Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act would not only shorten the work week but also mandate overtime pay for workdays exceeding eight hours, aiming to combat the exploitation of workers. Shawn Fain, International President of the Union Auto Workers, supported the move, pointing out the detrimental effects of current work practices on employees, who are “stretched thin” due to job eliminations and increased work hours.

However, the proposal has faced criticism from small business representatives and some politicians who argue that it lacks flexibility for business operations. Roger King of the HR Policy Association and Northwest Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) expressed concerns about the feasibility of implementing such a law, suggesting that market forces should dictate work hours rather than congressional mandates. Kelly remains skeptical about the bill’s potential progress, emphasizing the difference between policy ideas and practical application in the private sector.