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Could a 32-hour workweek become a national labor requirement?

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U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., rides a Link light rail train with King County Executive Dow Constantine in Seattle.

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., right, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, rides a Link light rail train on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, with King County Executive Dow Constantine in Seattle. The caucus has backed Rep. Mark Takano’s, D-Calif. proposal for a national 32-hour workweek.

Ted S. Warren, Associated Press

How does four days on, three days off sound?

Nearly a quarter of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives are throwing their support behind a proposal aiming to institute a national 32-hour workweek policy, according to a Wednesday announcement.

Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., said his “32 Hour Workweek Act” would reduce the standard workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours by lowering the maximum hours threshold for overtime compensation for non-exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act. While it wouldn’t mandate 32-hour weeks for all, those working beyond that mark would be entitled to overtime pay under his proposed changes.

Takano says the bill has earned the backing of the nearly 100 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and is intended to begin a national transition “toward a modern-day business model that prioritizes productivity, fair pay and an improved quality of life for workers across the country.”

“After a nearly two-year-long pandemic that forced millions of people to explore remote —and shouldn’t — simply go back to normal, because normal wasn’t working,” Takano said in a news release.

“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. It’s time for progress, and I am confident that with the CPC behind this bill, we can take meaningful steps forward and create positive, lasting change in people’s lives.”

The Hill reports groups across several countries have experimented with the shortened workweek, with some showing positive signs. A major study of the four-day workweek in Iceland was declared a “major success” in a report issued by the think tank Alda and Autonomy.

“Participating workers took on fewer hours and enjoyed greater well-being, improved work-life balance and a better cooperative spirit in the workplace — all while maintaining existing standards of performance and productivity,” the report read.

The state of Utah experimented with a four-day week, albeit one still comprised of 40 hours of labor, for thousands of public employees about a decade ago amid soaring energy prices, hoping to find some operational savings.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman launched the “4/10” workweek — 10 hours a day, Monday-Thursday — for thousands of employees in 2008 to improve efficiency, reduce overhead costs and conserve energy at a time when budgets were tight and resources dwindling.

A 2010 legislative audit showed the savings never materialized, in part due to a drop in energy prices.

A 2011 bill that stopped the experiment called on state offices to be open five days, but left it up to the executive branch to determine whether to still schedule workers for the four-day weeks.

Takano’s proposal, however, is looking to reduce overall worker hours and enhance well-being and a better work-life balance for employees. That’s a goal that Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, said she can get behind.

“For far too long, workers across this country have been forced to put in longer hours as their wages barely budge,” Jayapal said in a statement. “It is past time that we put people and communities over corporations and their profits — finally prioritizing the health, wellbeing, and basic human dignity of the working class rather than their employers’ bottom line.

“The 32-hour workweek would go a long way toward finally righting that balance. I’m proud to join my Progressive Caucus colleagues in supporting Rep. Takano’s bill and look forward to continuing the fight together to put power back into the hands of working people as we ensure every worker has good benefits, better conditions, and an equal voice on the job.”