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California could become the first state with a 32-hour workweek

California could become the first state with a 32-hour workweek
Posted at 7:50 AM, Apr 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 06:54:07-04

California’s state government is considering a bill that likely wouldn’t meet much resistance from many full-time workers.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, of Bell Gardens, and Assemblymember Evan Low, of San Jose, both Democrats, have introduced legislation meant to improve the work-life balance of millions of Californians. Bill AB-2932 seeks to amend part of the California Labor Code, formally changing the workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours.

Under the proposed legislation, workers would earn the same wages despite working eight fewer hours each week. The law would mean any time worked after the 32-hour mark has been met in a week must be compensated at a rate no lower than one-and-a-half times the regular pay rate.

Aimed at larger workplaces, only California companies with more than 500 employees are the ones that will have to comply if the bill passes. Also, the bill would not apply to workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

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Garcia told the Los Angeles Times that the departure of employees during the pandemic, widely referred to as the Great Resignation, spurred the idea of the bill.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 47.4 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021. By December 2021, there were 58 unemployed workers for every 100 job openings in the United States.

Garcia and other proponents of the bill state that many people left their jobs searching for a better quality of life.

“We’ve had a five-day workweek since the Industrial Revolution,” Garcia 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.”

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Not everyone is in favor of the idea. For instance, the California Chamber of Commerce argued that the change would increase hiring costs and kill jobs in California.

Supporters of the bill point to case studies in Iceland and at companies such as Kickstarter indicating that reducing the shorter workweek would increase both productivity and profits.

Last year, U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat from California, introduced a similar bill at the federal level.

“After a nearly two-year-long pandemic that forced millions of people to explore remote work options, it’s safe to say that we can’t — and shouldn’t — simply go back to normal, because normal wasn’t working,” Takano said after the bill was introduced. “People were spending more time at work, less time with loved ones, their health and well-being was worsening, and all the while, their pay has remained stagnant. This is a serious problem.”

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

AB-2932 is currently under review by California’s Labor and Employment Committee. The federal bill, H.R. 4728, is still awaiting a vote in the House Education and Labor Committee.

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