I’m headed to Luckenbach! California to consider adoption of four-day workweek

I’m headed to Luckenbach! California to consider adoption of four-day workweek

We read last week about a new bill being proposed by California Assembly members Cristina Garcia and Evan Low to make the state’s official workweek 32 hours for companies with 500 or more employees.

Assembly Bill 2932 proposes to make a four-day workweek the new norm in California for non-exempt employees. In addition, any work done past that cutoff would require employers to pay time-and-a-half. And work stretching past 12 hours a day or into seven days a week would be paid at double the normal wage.

“After two years of being in the pandemic, we’ve had over 47 million employees leave their job looking for better opportunities,” Garcia said. “They’re sending a clear message they want a better work-life balance. They want better emotional and mental health.”

California’s economy is the fifth-largest in the world and the largest among U.S. states.

But it’s not time to take that road trip to the Texas Hill Country just yet. The California Chamber of Commerce bellowed the bill would be a “job killer,” saying it would make hiring more expensive and lead to a drop in jobs.

“Labor costs are often one of the highest costs a business faces,” said Ashley Hoffman, policy advocate with the Chamber. “Businesses operate on thin profit margins and the number of employees you have does not dictate financial success.”

Evidence from other countries shows a four-day workweek to have positive effects, boosting employee productivity while reducing stress. Iceland gave the idea a trial run last summer and concluded a shorter workweek to be an overwhelming success. In fact, 8 in 10 employees in the country have since shifted to working four days a week.

If signed into law, the bill could have ripple effects beyond just the increase in free time. Compensating hourly employees for overtime at the lower threshold could be expensive. The limited workweek could also increase employee stress to complete the same amount of work in fewer hours. Or not.

Today, the average American worker puts in 1,770 hours a year. Among 22 of the world’s most developed economies, only four nations — Israel, Korea, Russia and Mexico — consistently put in longer hours than America.

Historical records even suggest that 14th century peasants worked far less than today’s Americans. On the flipside, 19th century factory workers put in significantly longer hours. So, we have that.

In the U.S., several companies have started experimenting with a four-day week. Kickstarter officially launched its shortened workweek this month.

“My desire is that we can achieve the same outcomes as a result of changing the way we work,” said Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan.

It is still unclear whether the bill has any chance of being passed. If enacted, the law would mark the first change to the standard 40-hour workweek in the U.S. since 1926. The Legislature has until August 31 to pass measures, and Governor Gavin Newsom has until September 30 to sign or veto.

So for the time being, we will have to dream of Luckenbach.

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