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Ranking Member Cassidy Delivers Remarks During Hearing on Fringe 32-Hour Workweek Proposal

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered remarks during today’s hearing on the HELP Chair’s fringe 32-hour workweek proposal.

Click here to watch the hearing live. 

Cassidy’s speech as prepared for delivery can be found below:

Thank you, Chair Sanders.

There are almost nine million job openings in the United States yet to be filled. We have had hearings in this committee about the workforce shortages our nation is struggling with. So why are we having a hearing to consider making that problem worse?

A 32-hour workweek with no loss in pay. Who wouldn’t want this? But unfortunately, we live in reality. 

The government mandating a 32-hour workweek while requiring businesses to increase pay at least an extra 25 percent per hour of labor will destroy employers, forcing them to either ship jobs overseas or dramatically increase prices to try and stay afloat. The Biden administration has been dumping gasoline on his inflation fire. This would be napalm.

If this policy is implemented, it would threaten the millions of small businesses already operating on razor-thin margins in part because they are unable to find enough workers. Employers would be forced to eliminate full-time positions in favor of part-time ones.

If a business wants to voluntarily try a 32-hour workweek for themselves, federal law already allows it. We will hear from a business today that offers their employees a 32-hour workweek. If an employer thinks it is good for their business and makes them more competitive, that is their choice.

But for businesses that need to maintain a 40-hour workweek to remain competitive, not only locally, but globally— a government-mandated 32-hour workweek would be catastrophic.

Government should not undermine an employer’s ability to keep their doors open with unreasonable mandates. The chair frequently says that the United States is the wealthiest nation in the world. How did we achieve this? The American work ethic. It is second to none. It has made this country the largest economic superpower the world has ever seen. We won’t maintain that status if we kneecap the American economy with policies threatening good-paying jobs for American workers.

There is a reason that no other country has a mandatory 32-hour workweek. When Japan shortened its workweek from 46 to 30 hours between 1988 and 1996, economic output plummeted 20 percent.

While Belgium has a 4-day workweek, they still work 40 hours in those 4 days.

AI and other technologies have the potential to dramatically increase economic productivity. If the chair wanted to hold a bipartisan hearing on the potential impact of AI on the American economy, I would have been ecstatic. My office published a white paper and a request for information to stakeholders last year on how this committee should approach AI and the impacts it can have on health, education, and labor in the United States. We are working on next steps, based on the feedback received.

A mom-and-pop restaurant is not seeing increased productivity from AI. They are having enough trouble finding enough employees to fill shifts. How is forcing them to provide a 32-hour workweek at the same 40-hour pay going to turn out for them? 

Hospital staffing shortages are already threatening public health. Why pass a law exacerbating those shortages? 

The United Auto Workers pushed for a 32-hour workweek during recent negotiations. But of course, it never made it to the final deal. And the federal government should not mandate it now just to placate Democrats’ political base. 

It seems this exercise is just to try to help the UAW lay the groundwork for future negotiations in an attempt to legitimize this outrageous proposal. If the UAW wants to discuss this condition of employment, it can do so at the bargaining table.   

I apologize if this hearing gives anyone false hope, but a mandatory 32-hour workweek is bad policy. Not even all Democrats support it. Nonetheless, I have to understand that this might be where the Biden administration is heading. As we have seen, the Biden administration is more than willing to use its executive authority to enact policies that do not have bipartisan congressional support.

There has been a concerning pattern from Democrats of prioritizing policies to help politically-connected labor unions at the expense of workers and the businesses that employ them.

Recently, the Biden administration proposed a new overtime rule that dramatically increases the overtime pay threshold by 55 percent, reducing job opportunities and raising prices for American families. 

The Biden administration also released a new joint employer rule, threatening the viability of the franchise model that employs over nine million workers and has empowered Americans from all communities to become successful business owners. 

DOL’s new independent contractor rule jeopardizes the ability of 27 million Americans to work as independent contractors. While the flexibility to pick their own hours and work for multiple businesses is attractive for workers, their independence and protection from forced unionization has made restricting this freedom a top priority for labor unions.

This administration’s assault on workers’ flexibility and employers via rulemaking is unacceptable. All of these policies hurt American workers and raise prices for families.

As I said, I would have been excited to work with the Chair on a hearing to discuss the impact of AI and new technologies in our jurisdiction. There is strong bipartisan interest in examining this issue.

Unfortunately, rather than laying the groundwork to explore AI, we will spend more Committee time on prescribing a solution that will not only never pass Congress, but would be detrimental for American workers and our economy.

Thank you.


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