Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0:

Avowed socialist Bernie Sanders held a hearing on Thursday to introduce his proposal for what he calls a “32-hour workweek with no loss in pay.” This misleading bill would lead to negative repercussions for the very workers it purports to help.

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this week introduced the “Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act” alongside Senator Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.). The bill would redefine regular and overtime hours by shifting the standard threshold from 40 hours to 32 hours per week. In an attempt to prevent the obvious consequence of pay cuts, the bill also declares that “the employer… may not reduce the total workweek compensation rate” for employees whose hours are slashed under the provisions of the bill. The resulting legislation is unworkable nonsense.

This bill suffers from the same key problem found in many far-left economic mandates: Sanders fails to consider any downstream dynamic economic effects from his proposal. In the imagination of Bernie Sanders, he can simply turn the dial down on the number of hours worked, the same full-time rate of pay will be maintained for all workers, and everything else will continue as normal. Reality is much different.

In the basic scenario, cutting each worker’s hours from 40 to 32 per week would slash his or her productivity by 20 percent, but the employer would be required to continue paying the same weekly wages. In turn, this would mean a 25 percent increase in labor costs because it would take five workers to complete the amount of work previously done by just four workers. Since most businesses don’t operate with particularly large net profit margins, employers would be left with only a few options to adapt to the sudden spike in labor costs. Industries which are more labor-intensive would be particularly hard-hit.

One option would be to pass these extra costs onto consumers in the form of higher prices for their goods and services. Prices have already risen by nearly 20 percent across the board since the beginning of the Biden administration due to the President’s inflationary policies, and Sanders’s proposal would only exacerbate these effects. An additional 25 percent increase in labor costs would cause significant inflationary harm for the average family on top of the struggles already faced from Biden’s tax-and-spend approach.

Alternatively, rather than accepting a lower productivity per worker due to the reduction in hours, employees could instead be required to increase their hourly productivity rate in order to match the rate of pay. For example, a worker who ordinarily produces 80 widgets in a 40-hour workweek (a rate of two widgets per hour) could now be required to produce the same 80 widgets in just 32 hours (a rate of 2.5 widgets per hour). This 25 percent increase in productivity rates would mean that workers have to work much harder, increasing physical strain and risk of injury in certain professions. For the elderly, disabled, or low-skilled workers, it could mean pricing them out of a job entirely.

Unfortunately, this highlights the ultimate consequence of Bernie Sanders’s proposal: Workers would lose their jobs. Though the bill bans pay cuts for current employees “due to the employee being brought within the purview of” the law, it does not prevent those workers from being fired and replaced with new employees who earn a lower rate of pay.

Even if this proposal worked at all, it could only possibly work for a single generation of workers. Any new worker who is hired on would earn a lower rate of pay than his predecessors to match the equivalent reduction in hours worked. Anyone who switches employers, whether by choice or due to layoffs, would similarly face lower pay at their next job. Any workers lucky enough to remain at their current job at their old rate of pay would surely lose any future opportunities for pay raises, since they would already be earning above-market rates for 32 hours of work. The consequences would be wide-reaching and last far into the future.

Do not be fooled by the wishful thinking presented by Chairman Sanders. While this bill claims to be a straightforward mechanism for cutting hours while maintaining pay, the reality is anything but. Congress must reject this nonsensical proposal and allow for the stability of the employment system to continue on.