Manny Otiko | California Black Media
Some California legislators want to shorten the standard American workweek from 40 hours to 32.
But critics of the proposed law say it will hurt productivity and slash business’ revenues.
Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Evan Low (D-San Jose) introduced Assembly Bill 2932 in February. The legislation aims to limit the work to eight-hour days and 32 hours per week for companies with 500 or employees. However, the bill forbids companies from reducing workers’ pay.
If lawmakers approve the legislation, it will affect 50.4% of California businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. The other 49.6 % of business in the state have between 1 and 499 employees.
According to the proposed bill, which is currently under review in the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment, work above 32 hours per week would count as overtime.
“Any work in excess of eight hours in one workday and any work in excess of 32 hours in any one workweek and the first eight hours worked on the seventh day of work in any one workweek shall be compensated at the rate of no less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for an employee,” the bill language reads. “Any work in excess of 12 hours in one day shall be compensated at the rate of no less than twice the regular rate of pay for an employee.”
Last year, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA-41) introduced a similar federal bill.
Takano says a 32-hour workweek would improve worker productivity and reduce employer premiums spent on healthcare.
“I am introducing this legislation to reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours because — now more than ever — people continue to work longer hours while their pay remains stagnant,” said Takano. “We cannot continue to accept this as our reality. Many countries and businesses that have experimented with a four-day workweek found it to be an overwhelming success as productivity grew and wages increased.”
“After the COVID-19 pandemic left so many millions of Americans unemployed or underemployed, a shorter workweek will allow more people to participate in the labor market at better wages,” the lawmaker continued.
The 32-hour workweek has been experimented with in Iceland, where it was deemed a success. According to the Association for Sustainable Democracy in Iceland, workers who tried the new workweek format reported less burnout, improved productivity and health, and less stress.
The proposed shorter workweek has also been tried in the U.S. at Kickstarter, a global crowdfunding platform, and D’Youville College, a private school in Buffalo, N.Y.
However, some members of the business community in California have already criticized the proposed law, saying it is one more burden that lawmakers are placing on the back of businessowners in the state.
Ashley Hoffman, a policy advocate with the California Chamber of Commerce, described the bill as “a job killer” in a letter to Low.
“This significant rise in labor costs will not be sustainable for many businesses. Labor costs are often one of the highest costs a business faces. Such a large increase in labor costs will reduce businesses’ ability to hire or create new positions and will therefore limit job growth in California,” said Hoffman.
American workers are infamous for working long hours and taking shorter vacations according to workers in other industrialized nations. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the average American worker put in 1,770 hours a year. OECD also stated that American workers labor longer than all workers living in the world’s largest economies.