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US workers deserve a break. It’s time for a 32-hour working week

American workers are more productive than ever, but aren’t feeling the benefit. Let’s learn from Europe and reduce our hours

In 1938, as a result of a massive grassroots effort by the trade union movement, the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted by Congress to reduce the work week to 40 hours. Back then, the American people were sick and tired of working 80, 90, 100 hours a week with very little time for rest, relaxation or quality time with their families. They demanded change and they won a huge victory. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that despite an explosion in technology, major increases in worker productivity, and transformational changes in the workplace and American society, the Fair Labor Standards Act has not been reformed in 80 years. The result: millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, with the average worker making nearly $50 a week less than he or she did 50 years ago, after adjusting for inflation. Further, family life is suffering, as parents don’t have adequate time for their kids, life expectancy for working people is in decline, and increased stress is a major factor in the mental health crisis we are now experiencing.

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