Contract negotiations: UAW strike puts four-day workweek back in focus


When the United Auto Workers called a strike last week against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, one of their demands focused on an idea circulating on the periphery of labor reform circles.

In addition to demanding a 36% pay increase and increased job security, union members are demanding a 32-hour, four-day work week with no pay reduction.

Proposals to shorten the work week have gained traction in recent years, with the flexibility of remote work during a pandemic fueling many of these calls. The accelerating use of artificial intelligence in the workplace has also caused some workers to question the need for a 40-hour week.

Senator Bernie Sanders has long been a strong advocate of a shortened work week.

“We are seeing an explosion in this country of artificial intelligence and robotics. And that means the average worker will be much more productive,” the Vermont Independent told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday. “The question we need to ask ourselves as a nation is: who will benefit from this productivity? We should have a serious discussion – and the UAW is doing so – about a substantial reduction in the work week.”

Several countries have tested the four-day working week, with the largest taking place last year in the United Kingdom. The trial lasted six months and involved around 2,900 workers across 61 companies. Participants reported better sleep, more time spent with their children, and lower levels of burnout.

“It would be an amazing thing to see people have more time to spend with their children, with their family, to be able to do more cultural activities and get a better education,” Sanders said. “Americans are stressed for a dozen different reasons, and it’s one of the reasons life expectancy in our country is declining.”

A separate study conducted in Iceland between 2015 and 2019 found that reducing the number of work days per week did not reduce productivity. A similar program in the United States and Canada, consisting of dozens of companies, found that none of the companies planned to return to the five-day standard after the trial ended.


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