Pa. Democrat Proposes Study on Four-Day Work Week for State Employees

Progressive Democrat from Philadelphia wants Pennsylvania to study impacts of move 77,000 state employees to a four-day work week.

In a statement Monday, state Rep. Chris Rabb said he wanted a cost-benefit analysis of such a schedule to “improve the efficiency of state government,” while providing taxpayers the “level of service they both need and deserve”.

“We need to end this trope of Protestant work ethic it requires a relentless commitment to work at the expense of the health of our households in our communities,” Rabb told the Capital-Star.

the legislationprobably the first to call for a four-day workweek in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, asked the Legislative Committee on State Budget and Finance to study the subject. The study will also look at “policies aimed at inducing all employers in Pennsylvania to make the switch,” according to Rabb’s memo.

The bipartisan panel is often called upon to study topics of interest to lawmakers, from standardized testing and the dairy industry to a 2020 election review.

The 40-hour work week has been the standard in the United States since the 1930s, when Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act after decades of labor movement activism.

The law prohibits child labor, provides for a minimum wage, and requires most, but not all, companies to pay most workers time-and-a-half if they work overtime.

Several people, including most workers in the transport sector, some agricultural workers, apprentices and trainees, managers and administrators, “creative professionals” and those employed by companies that earn less than $500,000 a year are exempted of all or part of the law.

From Librarians to Uber Drivers: This is the Changing Face of the Pennsylvania Labor Movement

Other developed countries have considered reducing the number of hours further, in the hope of increase worker productivity when at work.

During the last years, Spain, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Belgium have started to shift or reduce working hours. Some countries reduced the number of hours worked each week, while others kept weekly hours constant, resulting in four longer working days in exchange for an extra day off.

It’s not just policy makers. Some private companies are interested in it. Google, for example, has moved to a four-day work week, Forbes reported earlier this year.

“Guess I’m a business after all,” Rabb joked.

A former business professor, Rabb said he’s been thinking about a shorter week for at least the past decade. But two years after the COVID-19 pandemic reshuffled societal norms, he thought it was time to apply some lessons about work-life balance going forward.

“We shouldn’t be ground by a meat grinder,” Rabb added. “We shouldn’t be valued just for what we create for employers.”

Congressional Democrats also introduced legislation requiring employers to pay workers overtime if they work more than 32 hours per week.

Rabb’s memo will eventually be presented as a bill, before being sent to a committee for further consideration.

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