A Four Day Workweek Is One Step Closer to Reality
We just got a little closer to a four-day workweek here in the United States. But I wouldn't get too excited about it, at least not yet.
Representative Mark Takano of California has introduced a bill in Congress to shorten the workweek to 32 hours. He introduced the bill because people continue to work longer hours while their pay remains stagnant. And he doesn't believe American's should have to accept this as their reality. This is according to KTNV television in Las Vegas.
One Las Vegas business owner the TV station talked to wasn't excited about the prospect. His hourly employees would lose hours with the adoption of a 32 hour work week because he'd have to pay them overtime when they hit hour 33, so he'd limit their hours. He'd also have to hire more part-time employees to cover the extra hours his full-time employees were off. And ultimately, he'd have to charge his customers more for what he sells.
It's those details and the unintended consequences that the business owner above outlined that should give us all a pause. I did a little more research into how Representative Takano hopes this plays out.
He told Business Insider that he feels the climate is right that if his Bill for a 32-hour workweek is coupled with stronger unions, a liveable minimum wage, and overtime provisions he thinks it could be sustainable. He told Business Insider, "I think we do have a chance of seeing people actually making a livable salary, a livable wage at 32 hours a week." He also hopes, by overtime kicking in at 33 hours, that if it doesn't reduce the hours people work it puts time and a half in their pocket.
This reminds me of the Obama Administration's plan to raise people's salaries through a change in what employees would be eligible for overtime by changing the salary threshold for exempt or non-exempt employees. At my job then, I was exempt and received a salary. If the classification had changed, at my salary level, my company would have had to have me punch a time clock, pay me overtime, and track my hours.
This plan would have hurt me as a salaried employee because my employer back then wasn't going to give me a raise to continue to be exempt. Probably would have limited my hours so they wouldn't have to pay me overtime. And it wasn't clear to me that I'd be able to continue to enjoy the perk of leaving early or taking a day off on a light week without using vacation. (I had a really cool boss.)
While the plan would have tremendously helped hourly wage earners, or at least not hurt them, my job suddenly became significantly less attractive, because the flexibility in it seemed to disappear, without any real benefit. Those pesky unintended consequences.
I think the four-day 32-hour workweek is great in theory, and I believe a 32-hour workweek could work for those employees who pull a salary that isn't related to how many hours they work. I'm just not convinced that those employees who earn around minimum wage, or are asked to punch a time clock with a boss allergic to overtime won't become the victim of unintended consequences that hurt what they take home for a week's work.