California Lawmakers Call For 4-Day Work Week

The California State Legislature is currently discussing a bill that would lower the official work week to 32 hours over four days, with overtime pay required for anything in excess of this.

The California Assembly will consider legislation this year that would create the most substantial change to the modern concept of the workweek since the adoption of weekends during the Industrial Revolution.

 

The requirements under the bill would only apply to employers with at least 500 workers. The bill also states that workers’ pay cannot be lowered as a result of the reduced hours.

 

The bill, introduced in February, has been sent to the Assembly’s Committee on Labor and Employment. It was not on the panel’s March hearing lineup, and it is not scheduled to be heard during a hearing next week, suggesting the bill’s chances of advancing are low this year.

But the authors, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D) and Assemblyman Evan Low (D), say they hope it starts a conversation rethinking the modern workweek.

 

 

“We’ve had a five-day work week since the Industrial Revolution,” Assembly member Cristina Garcia, one of the bill’s authors, told the Los Angeles Times, “but we’ve had a lot of progress in society, and we’ve had a lot of advancements. I think the pandemic right now allows us the opportunity to rethink things, to reimagine things.”

Garcia said the bill was inspired by the number of people who left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic and want a better quality of life than what they had before. She noted that the bill would not apply to workers who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

 

The California Chamber of Commerce came out against the legislation, adding it to its 2022 list of “job killer” bills. In a letter to the bill’s other author, Assembly member Evan Low, they argued that the bill would result in increased labor costs that “will not be sustainable for many businesses.”

“California companies are the economic engine that drives innovation and job creation in our state and are responsible for the record revenues the state is currently experiencing,” chamber president Jennifer Barrera said in a statement. “Yet, the bills on this year’s job killer list reflect a lack of appreciation of the economic realities and regulatory challenges employers – and especially small business employers – face as they continue to emerge from the impacts of this pandemic.”

The Ford Motor Company was the first major employer in the United States to adopt the now-standard five-day workweek, shuttering its factories on weekends in the mid-1920s. Former President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, imposing a 44-hour workweek; two years later, he signed an updated bill dropping the workweek to 40 hours.

 

Limited experiments with four-day workweeks have suggested that workers are more productive and happier about their jobs. A five-year trial in Iceland found productivity remained stable or rose at most workplaces, and studies have taken place in Spain and New Zealand.

A poll conducted by Gallup last year found Americans are intrigued by the idea of working smarter, not harder. Employees who worked four days a week were more likely to say they were thriving than those who worked five or six days per week.

 

The Assembly has yet to vote on the bill, which has been referred to the committee on labor and employment.

 


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