California is trying to become the first state in the nation to make a four-day workweek a state law.
The state introduced a bill that would make the official workweek 32 hours and no longer 40 hours for companies with 500 employees or more, giving higher raises and time-and-a-half pay to any worker who surpasses that cutoff. A typical workday would remain eight hours.
The bill – AB 2932 – also states that 12 hours past the 32-hour cutoff would require double the normal wage and workers would not be docked pay for working less than 32 hours. The bill does not address or cover workers who are under a collective bargaining agreement, however.
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The bill was written and proposed last week by State Assembly members Cristina Garcia and Evan Low, both of them Democrats. A similar bill is being pitched at the federal level under the Fair Labors Standards Act.
Garcia told The Los Angeles Times that the idea was prompted by a major shift in employee welfare that was born during the COVID-19 pandemic when many workers left their jobs seeking a better quality of life. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 47 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021. The shift also comes as working from home has become more normalized amid the pandemic.
“We’ve had a five-day workweek since the Industrial Revolution,” Garcia told The 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.”
The bill, which would affect nearly 2,600 companies in California, has not come without pushback. The California Chamber of Commerce has called it a “job killer” and said it would make hiring more expensive and lead to a drop in jobs across the state.
Yet evidence from other countries shows a 32-hour workweek can bolster companies and their employees with better productivity rates. According to a study in January, 40-hour workweeks have been wearing workers out. Iceland has implemented a four-day workweek, and Japan’s government has recommended it as a national policy.
“The fact of the matter is many other companies are already doing this, and other countries too, so I think this is the direction we’re going,” Low, the bill’s co-author, told The Times. “This is going to attract more (employees) to your company, because it’s undisputed workers are looking for more flexibility.”
According to data from the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, U.S. employees put in more work hours every year than workers in most other industrial nations. The typical American worker today puts in nearly 1,800 hours a year.
AB 2932 is under review with the Labor and Employment Committee and a hearing date has yet to be scheduled.