Bernie Sanders Wants a 4-Day Workweek. It Won’t Happen

A mandatory 32-hour workweek is not coming to a business near you, however much Senator Bernie Sanders wants it to happen.

The 40-hour workweek became standard in 1940. For employees who are non-exempt, that means that if they work more than 40 hours in a week, they get paid time and a half for every hour over 40.

Sanders says he wants to pass this 4-day workweek bill to force companies to share profits with their employees and bring Americans into line with other wealthy nations. The New York Times quoted Sanders as saying, “The sad reality is that Americans now work more hours than the people of any other wealthy nation,” citing, as the NYT added, “statistics that workers in the U.S. on average work for hundreds of hours longer each week than their counterparts in Japan, Britain and Germany.”

Despite the fact that it’s literally impossible for U.S. workers to work for “hundreds of hours” longer than anyone, as there are only 168 hours per week, the reality is the average U.S. worker doesn’t work more than 40 hours per week. The average employee works 34.3 hours per week. That number includes part-time employees. Full-time employees work an average of 36.4 hours per week, or 1,892 hours per year.

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13 thoughts on “Bernie Sanders Wants a 4-Day Workweek. It Won’t Happen

  1. What does a career politician know or understand about working a 40 hour week? Bernie is talking out of the side of his mouth again. Must be an election year.

  2. I’m skeptical of more or less all such statistics. They’re far too easily manipulated, even accidently. Or more generously: It’s really, really hard to come up with a number that accurately represents what’s going on.

    For example, do you include time off as work? If not, you’d have to work a lot of overtime to average 40 hours per week. To claim someone works an average of 34 hours a week when in fact they work 40+ when not on vacation misrepresents the situation. Of course, on the flip side if you don’t include days/weeks when the employee is on PTO you’re going to misrepresent the situation by disguising how much or how little time off is actually being taken.

    As for a 4-day week, this shows a heavy bias against the trades, where ten-day shifts are common. Longer shifts are common as well, which is why OSHA is pushing fatigue management more and more.

  3. Just anecdotal evidence, but I worked with a French team where people were limited to 35 hours a week. Their American counterparts were working 45-50 hours. The French team had to focus on efficiency to get the job done in such a limited time, but they did it so well that they outworked the Americans hands down.

    1. I believe this but we, in this country, are so wedded to the idea of working all the time that we will never see many companies adopt a 4-day workweek. No matter the productivity benefits. It’s seen as a moral failing to not work 50-hour weeks.

    2. Efficiency is all well and good, to a point. At a certain point, though, you’re sacrificing quality and safety on the alter of efficiency. (Obviously the opposite is also true: you can quality and safety yourself into a 50 hour paycheck with 30 hours of actual work.) There’s a reason the trades (carpentry, plumbing, masonry, concrete, ironwork, electrical, HVAC, etc) and those industries that rely on them (construction, environmental remediation, that sort of thing) have 10-hour days as the standard. It’s ironic you mention the French; I was recently discussing remediation with someone who worked in France, and they had exactly the opposite experience you did–the job took far longer because they were limited to 35 hours a week, and they needed breaks and a lengthy tailgate meeting and a lunch tailgate and a daily wrap-up meeting and in the end they realistically had 4 hours or less per day of actual work.

      This of course does not negate your experiences. It just goes to show, the issue isn’t the schedule. It’s the people. The issue is always the people.

    3. I find this fascinating because, the joke in Switzerland is about how lazy the French are.

  4. Bernie Has never worked at a real job in his whole life but keeps making remarks like this that have no real-life work application, especially for jobs today that don’t follow the norm of the assumed Monday-Friday, weekends off, 9 am-5 pm schedule. Today’s world of working is 24/7, and I can see people taking advantage of this proposed 32-hour full-time status to limit working to the slowest times of the week so they can enjoy those permanent 3-day weekends and unscrupulous employers who keep part-time hours at present to less than 29 hours will lower the maximum allowed to even lower making it impossible to earn full-time status. Yeah, he claims that wages/salary will not decrease but he, Bernie, has a poor record, himself, of fairly paying his staff the correct wage. Corporations are going to expect those who are classified as full-time to perform the same amount of work in the lowered hours and will require them to work more as-needed hours so they don’t have to hire more employees. Keep dreaming Bernie–you have no idea of what it takes to run a business with happy employees who are well compensated for their time and enjoy working while keeping the business profitable.

  5. “‘Why not let businesses and employees discover this on their own?’
    Indeed. If this is truly better for everyone, companies will adopt it on their own.”

    Yes, it boggles the mind why an employer would withhold a benefit. As we all know, American history is full of benevolent businesses dutifully increasing worker safety and benefits entirely on their own – definitely not at the behest of regulation or unions.

  6. The idea of a 4-day work week sounds inviting. Employees these days already don’t have the mental capacity to work 8 hours productively. This just means more hours go to waste which loses the organization money and productivity. Employees will then learn to prioritize and be more efficient. Knowing the hours are less they will fill those hours with as much work they can do. Employees value a better work life balance, and this proposal might boost morale and efficiency overall. Happier employees are more productive and tend to be more loyal. Shorter work weeks can help save the company operational and employee cost. Also, shorter work weeks and hours can benefit the employees’ health as 8-hour days can cause depression and laziness. For HR managers, recruiting and appealing to more employees will be easier and a selling point.

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