Senate Committee Considers Four Day Workweek

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) conducted a hearing to consider legislation that would establish a 32 hour workweek. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved a resolution blocking the independent contractor rule issued by the Department of Labor that became effective on March 11th. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a bill that would guarantee that employees receive paid annual vacation leave. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that worker strikes increased in 2023.


Senate Committee Holds Hearing on 32 Hour Workweek – The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing titled “Workers Should Benefit from New Technology and Increased Productivity: The Need for a 32-Hour Work Week with No Loss in Pay.”  HELP Committee chairman Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced a bill (S. 3947) that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to reduce the standard workweek from 40 hours per week to 32 hours. A companion bill (H.R. 1332) has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Mark Takano (D-CA).


According to Senator Sanders, “Today in America, 28.5 million Americans – 18% of our workforce – now work over 60 hours a week and 40 percent of employees in America now work at least 50 hours a week…The sad reality is, Americans now work more hours than the people of most other wealthy nations. By contrast, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), criticized the proposed legislation predicting that “The government mandating a 32-hour workweek while requiring businesses to increase pay at least an extra 25 percent per hour of labor will destroy employers, forcing them to either ship jobs overseas or dramatically increase prices to try and stay afloat.”


Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology, Boston College testified about the results of research on a trial with over 200 companies globally that agreed to six month pilots that reduced the workweek to 32 hours with no loss of pay. She noted that the pilots have produced positive results for both workers and employers. The 3,600 workers who participated in the surveys reported lower burnout, reduced stress, better physical and mental health, a decline in anxiety and fatigue, and improved work-family balance. Ninety-five percent want to continue to work a four-day workweek.


Professor Schor reported that 91% of the employers that participated in the six month trial have continued with the four-day workweek schedule after at least one year. The employers experienced reduced resignations and absenteeism with an increase in revenue. On a ten point scale, the employers rated the trial overall as an 8.6 and the ability of the four-day workweek to attract employees at an 8.8. She noted that employers were able to increase hourly productivity as a result of enhancements to work processes. Key to the increase in productivity, according to Professor Schor, was “streamlining meetings and reducing distractions.” The organization 4 Day Week Global is a leading advocate in the effort to establish a four day workweek.


House Committee Advances Bill to Block Independent Contractor Rule – The House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved a Congressional Review Act resolution (H.J. Res. 116) that would overturn the Independent Contractor Rule issued by the Department of Labor that became effective on March 11th. There is a companion resolution (S.J. Res. 63) that was introduced in the Senate. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress has 60 days from the date in which it receives the rule to introduce a resolution of disapproval. If approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives, the president can either sign or veto it and if vetoed, it requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber to override a veto. There are four lawsuits  challenging the rule pending in U.S. District Courts in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Tennessee.


Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act – Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) introduced the Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act (S. 4003) that would provide employees with paid annual vacation leave. According to Senator Sanders, “It is time to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on Earth not to guarantee paid vacation days to workers.” A companion bill (H.R. 7752) has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Seth Magaziner (D-RI). The House version of the bill is titled the Protected Time Off (PTO) Act. The bills have been referred to the Senate HELP Committee and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.


The legislation would provide that employees have a right to accrue at least one hour of paid annual leave for every 25 hours worked. Employers would not have to provide full-time employees with more than two weeks of paid annual leave per year that could be used for any reason and for which they would receive their standard rate of pay. This leave would be in addition to any paid sick leave or family and medical leave. Employees could carry over 40 hours of leave. Employees would be protected from discrimination if they took annual leave.


Increase in Worker Strikes in 2023 – The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that last year, there were 33 major work stoppages, the largest number since 2000 when there were 39. Almost 460,000 workers were involved in the major work stoppages according to the BLS, with the largest number occurring in the information industry. Health care and social assistance and education were the next largest impacted industries. BLS defines major work stoppages as including “both worker-initiated strikes and employer-initiated lockouts that involve 1,000 or more workers and last at least one shift during the work week.” BLS only tracks major work stoppages.


According to the Labor Action Tracker issued jointly by Cornell University and the University of Illinois, there were 470 work stoppages involving about 539,000 workers in 2023. These work stoppages resulted in close to 25 million strike days. The number of work stoppages increased by 9% as compared to 2022, but the number of impacted workers grew by 141% to 539,000.


Neil Reichenberg is the former executive director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources. He is an attorney, a frequent writer and speaker on public policy and human resource issues and was an adjunct faculty member at George Mason University. For questions or additional information, contact Reichenberg at