California Democrats Propose 32-hour, Four Day Work Week Labeled ‘Job Killer’

California Democrats have proposed a bill mandating a four-day, 32-hour work week that has been labeled a “job-killer” by opponents.

The legislation, which was put forward by Democratic state Reps. Cristina Garcia and Evan Low, would require any company with 500 employees or more to change the definition of a ‘work week’ from 40 hours to 32 hours, and would require employers to pay their workers the same level of compensation for working four eight-hour days as they would for a regular five-day, 40-hour work week.

Employees that work over 32 hours would have to be paid overtime: for hours in excess of 32 hours, they would receive time-and-a-half pay, and for hours in excess of 40 hours they would receive double pay.

The bill would effectively force these large employers to give their employees a raise, as it prohibits reduced pay for working fewer hours.

California’s Employment Development Department has reported that the legislation would effect more than 2,600 companies and more than 3.6 million workers in the state. It is so far unclear how the bill would effect salaried workers.

Other than the exemption for businesses with less than 500 employees, the legislation will also not effect companies with a collective bargaining agreement with their workers — which means that large companies with unionized employees will be allowed to keep their standard 40-hour work week.

Similar legislation has been introduced at the federal level by Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA).

Garcia, one of the state bill’s sponsors, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that the COVID pandemic has brought forward an opportunity for Americans to reimagine what work should look like.

“We’ve had a five-day workweek since the Industrial Revolution, but we’ve had a lot of progress in society, and we’ve had a lot of advancements,” she said. “I think the pandemic right now allows us the opportunity to rethink things, to re-imagine things.”

Left-wing proponents of mandating shorter work weeks have claimed that the idea would actually increase productivity and profits, citing companies like Kickstarter as positive examples of the idea’s success. The left also cites case studies from Iceland, which found businesses that reduced their work week down to 35 or 36 hours maintained the same level of productivity while employees reported feeling happier.

“The fact of the matter is many other companies are already doing this, and other countries too, so I think this is the direction we’re going,” Low, the legislation’s co-sponsor, said.
The California Chamber of Commerce has come out in opposition to the legislation, referring to it as a “job killer.”

Ashley Hoffman, policy advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to Low stating that the bill “imposes a tremendous cost on employers and includes provisions that are impossible to comply with.”

According to Hoffman’s estimates, the bill would impose a minimum 10% increase in wages per employee per week, which she believes will be unsustainable for many businesses.

“Such a large increase in labor costs will reduce businesses’ ability to hire or create new positions and will therefore limit job growth in California,” she said. “This is especially true now as businesses are still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19 and resulting rises in supply chain costs.”

The legislation is headed to the state Labor and Employment Committee prior to advancing to the legislature.