UAW calls for four-day work week, and Bernie Sanders takes the debate: ‘People are overwhelmed’

By | September 20, 2023

In the corporate world, Elmo’s word du jour is almost always “innovation.” But while the idea of ​​change is rife in PowerPoints, the white-collar industry isn’t always ready to break with tradition. Meanwhile, the blue-collar sector is trying to lead the revamping of the future of work.

During the summer of strikes, manufacturing workers began to take center stage, reinventing the way we work and pushing for better wages. The United Auto Workers, made up of the big three automakers, may be the ones to really move the needle once and for all and truly innovate. They are demanding wage increases, the restitution of pensions and a shortened working week. By seeking to change the schedule to 32 hours a week without any wage adjustment, the union is focusing not only on the common refrain of better pay in a very expensive time, but also on better working conditions. And they recently found an ally in Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

“We are seeing an explosion in this country of artificial intelligence and robotics. And that means the average worker is going to be much more productive,” Sanders told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday. “The question we as a nation must ask ourselves is: who will benefit from this productivity? We should be having a serious discussion – and the UAW is – about substantially reducing the work week.”

Sanders addresses a new theory about an automated workforce that could create space to rethink how we work and reallocate some of the hard work to artificial intelligence, making workers more productive rather than taking over their jobs. A recent McKinsey report predicts that up to 12 million job changes will occur by 2030 as employees change careers and some jobs are influenced by generative AI. While it once seemed like the manufacturing sector was the first to face an AI setback, it now seems like office jobs are more at the forefront. Sanders believes that artificial intelligence taking on some of the workload could allow manufacturing workers and employees in other sectors to work four days instead of five.

“People in America are stressed for a dozen different reasons, and that’s one reason why life expectancy in our country is actually declining,” he said, adding that the new schedule could give employees the opportunity to spend time with family. become more active in cultural events and receive more education.

“People are overwhelmed. They have to take care of their kids, they have to worry about health care, they have to worry about housing,” Sanders says, adding that the new program could allow employees to spend time with family, become more active in cultural events and, or , get more education.

The four-day working week has been one of many aspects at the center of the debate on the future of work. As America began experimenting with flexible working, the traditional monotonous schedule began to make even less sense. Employees not only wanted to work from the location of their choosing, but eliminate the five-day 9-5 a week.

Last year, the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global implemented a four-day workweek trial, measuring the results of 900 employees working at 30 different companies over six months. Initial results showed that employees were just as productive with the new workflow and now had more time to take care of childcare issues and discover new hobbies. The majority of employers (almost 97%) who have tried it said they wanted to maintain reduced hours. And a separate study by the same group found that workers achieved the same result in 33 hours a week compared to 38 hours.

But despite its growing popularity and early success, the four-day workweek isn’t gaining traction in boardrooms. It seems the manufacturing world is ready to pick up the slack and push for a shortened work week.

The current fight could be one step forward for UAW employees and two steps forward for humanity (or all humanity that wants a four-day work week). “It seems to me that if new technology is going to make us a more productive society, the benefits should go to workers,” Sanders said.

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