Bernie Sanders backs UAW call for a 4-day workweek: 'People in America are stressed out'

  • Bernie Sanders on Sunday voiced support for a 4-day workweek, a demand of striking auto workers.

  • On CNN, the Vermont senator blamed long working hours for a decline in US life expectancy.

  • "People in America are stressed out for a dozen different reasons," Sanders said.

This country needs to seriously consider cutting back the hours that people have to labor at their job, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders told CNN on Sunday, suggesting the 40-hour workweek is at least partly to blame for Americans' declining life expectancy.

A 32-hour, four-day workweek — for the same pay — is a key demand of the United Auto Workers, whose members went on strike last week after talks with Ford, GM, and Stellantis failed to deliver a new contract. The demand, in part, reflects concerns that the electrification of the auto industry, paired with emerging artificial intelligence technologies, will significantly reduce the amount of human labor required to assemble a new vehicle.

Sanders, asked whether he thought the UAW's position was simply a bargaining ploy, said he thinks it's actually worth having a conversation about.

"As a nation, we should begin a serious discussion — and UAW is doing that — about substantially lowering the workweek," Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, told CNN's Jake Tapper.

"People in America are stressed out for a dozen different reasons, and that's one of the reasons why life expectancy in our country is actually in decline," he said. "People are overwhelmed. They've got to take care of their kids. They've got to worry about healthcare. They've got to worry about housing. They're worried."

According to the CDC, life expectancy at birth fell to 76.1 years in 2021, the second year in a row that the number fell, largely due to COVID-19. Other contributing factors included heart disease, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and suicide, the CDC said.

Studies of a four-day workweek, meanwhile, including a pilot program involving some 2,900 workers in the UK, have suggested employees' time at work could be reduced without hurting companies' revenue — and with workers reporting less stress and anxiety.

Sanders argued that cutting time at work would also be a just reward for gains in worker productivity, particularly with the advent of AI.

"It seems to me that if new technology is going to make us a more productive society, the benefits should go to the workers," he said. "It would be an extraordinary thing to see people have more time to spend with their kids, with their families, to be able to do more cultural activities, to get a better education."

It is something, he continued, that "absolutely we need to be discussing."

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