Sanders, UAW president press harder for shorter workweek: ‘This is not a radical idea’

Sanders, UAW president press harder for shorter workweek: ‘This is not a radical idea’

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Shawn Fain, the president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post pressing ahead on the initiative to shorten workweeks without cutting pay.

“Let’s be clear. This is not a radical idea: Belgium has already adopted a four-day workweek,” they wrote, referencing several other countries that have fully implemented or tested different schedules for its workers.

Sanders introduced a bill to establish a standard four-day workweek in the U.S. without any reduction in pay. Over a four-year period, the bill would lower the threshold required for overtime pay from 40 hours to 32. It would also require overtime pay at a rate of 1 1/2 times an employee’s regular salary for workdays that are longer than eight hours and overtime pay at a rate of two times an employee’s regular salary for workdays longer than 12 hours.

In the op-ed, Sanders and Fain point to the country’s increased worker productivity in the years since the Senate passed a 30-hour workweek in 1933.

“Today, American workers are more than 400 percent more productive than they were in the 1940s. And yet, despite this fact, millions of our people are working longer hours for lower wages,” they wrote. “In fact, 28.5 million Americans now work over 60 hours a week and more than half of full-time employees work more than 40 hours a week.”

After adjusting for inflation, American workers make almost $50 less a week than they did 50 years ago, they said.

“In a 1974 office, there were no computers, email, cellphones, conference calling or Zoom. In factories and warehouses, there were no robots or sophisticated machinery, no cloud computing. In grocery stores and shops of all kinds, there were no checkout counters using bar codes,” the pair wrote.

Sanders has long advocated for tax increases on the wealthy. In the op-ed and in a recent heated exchange with Fox Business, Sanders criticized billionaires, like Amazon owner Jeff Bezos for example, who he says doesn’t pay his “fair share of taxes.”

The op-ed points to the UAW strike last year, where workers for the Big Three automakers called for the introduction of “a four-day, 32-hour workweek at the same rate of pay,” among other benefits. They were unsuccessful in winning that demand, Sanders and Fain wrote, and “the struggle continues.”

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