Senator Bernie Sanders this week voiced his support for a substantial reduction in the working week, suggesting that the ongoing artificial intelligence and robotics boom could pave the way for increased leisure time for American workers.
Sanders, who is known for his progressive stance on labor issues, argued that as technology accelerates work processes, the benefits should be shared with laborers in the form of more paid time off.
Sanders emphasized the mounting pressures faced by most Americans, including challenges related to parenting, housing, healthcare, and finances, which often lead to shortened life expectancies.
He asserted that the advent of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and robotics, should result in a more productive society where the advantages are distributed among workers.
"It seems to me that if new technology is going to make us a more productive society, the benefits should go to the workers," Sanders said.
He further stated that such a shift would allow individuals to spend more quality time with their families, engage in cultural activities, and pursue better education.
Sanders's comments came in response to a question from CNN Journalist Jake Tapper regarding the United Auto Workers (UAW) union's demand for a four-day workweek.
Approximately 13,000 UAW members went on strike against major car manufacturers, including General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis, following unsuccessful contract negotiations.
Tapper questioned whether the idea of a shorter working week might be a bargaining tactic for the UAW, but Sanders defended the legitimacy of the demand and criticized the ‘exorbitant’ salaries received by automotive industry executives.
He drew attention to the stark wage disparities, where CEOs earned hundreds of times more than the median wage of their workers.
According to the Economics Policy Institute, executive pay increased by 40% between 2013 and 2022, while workers' real hourly earnings decreased by about one-fifth since 2008.
The UAW's demands include a 40% wage increase, improved retirement benefits, job security protections, and a 32-hour workweek. A recent Gallup poll showed that 75% of Americans support the striking auto workers.
While the strike has garnered substantial support, concerns have arisen about its potential impact on the broader US economy, potentially leading to higher car prices for consumers already grappling with economic challenges.
In response to the strike and wage disparities, Sanders placed blame squarely on corporate greed. He argued that the automotive industry's top executives were responsible for the strike, asserting that Americans were growing weary of income inequality.
Sanders concluded by commending the UAW for standing up against corporate greed and advocating for workers' rights.
He called attention to the broader issue of income inequality and corporate excesses, echoing sentiments shared by many Americans who believe that the benefits of technological progress should be shared equitably among the workforce.