In the corporate world, Elmo’s buzzword is almost always “innovation.” Despite the idea of change instilled in PowerPoint, white-collar workers are not always quick to break with tradition. Meanwhile, blue-collar workers are trying to take the lead in changing the future of work.
During the summer’s strikes, manufacturing workers took center stage to reimagine the way we work and fight for better pay. The United Auto Workers, made up of the three major automakers, may be the ones who really hit the mark and truly innovate. They are asking for increased wages, the return of pensions and shorter working weeks. The union wants to change working hours to a 32-hour week without any pay adjustments, focusing not only on higher wages during a very expensive period but also on better working conditions. They recently found an ally in Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“We’re seeing an explosion of artificial intelligence and robotics in this country. That means the average worker is going to be significantly more productive,” Sanders told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday Tapper) said. “The question we have to ask ourselves as a country is: Who will benefit from this productivity? We should start having serious discussions — and the UAW is doing so — about drastically reducing the workweek.”
Sanders talks about a new theory about an automated workforce that could create space to rethink the way we work and redistribute some of the grunt work to artificial intelligence, making workers more productive rather than taking over their jobs . A recent McKinsey report predicts that there will be as many as 12 million career changes by 2030 as workers transition careers and some jobs are affected by generative artificial intelligence. While manufacturing once seemed like the first stop for AI setbacks, office jobs now appear to be more vulnerable. Sanders believes that AI taking over some of the workload could allow manufacturing workers and employees in other sectors to work four days instead of five.
“Americans are stressed for a dozen different reasons, which is one of the reasons life expectancy is actually declining in our country,” he said, adding that the new schedule would allow employees to spend time with their families. Spend time together. Be more active in cultural activities and get more education. “People are overwhelmed. They have to take care of their children, they have to worry about health care, they have to worry about housing.”
“People are overwhelmed. They have to take care of their kids, they have to worry about health care, they have to worry about housing,” Sanders said, adding that the new schedule would allow employees time to spend time with their families and be more engaged. Cultural activities, or, getting more education.
The four-day working week is one of the central aspects of the future of work debate. As America begins experimenting with flexible work styles, traditional monotonous schedules start to make less sense. Not only do employees want to work from a location of their choice, but they also want to escape the 9-to-5 grind, five days a week.
Last year, the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global piloted a four-day work week and measured the results of 900 employees at 30 different companies for half a year. Early results show that employees are equally productive in the new workflow and now have more time to deal with childcare issues and discover new hobbies. The majority of employers who tried it (almost 97%) said they wanted to keep a streamlined schedule. Another trial by the same group found that employees worked just as much in a 33-hour week as in a 38-hour week.
However, despite the growing popularity and initial success of the four-day work week, it has not gained traction in boardrooms. The manufacturing industry appears ready to fill the void and push for shorter work weeks.
The current fight may be one step forward for UAW employees, and it may be two steps forward for humanity (or all humans who want to work a four-day week). “In my view, if new technology makes our society more productive, then workers should benefit,” Sanders said.