California State Assemblywoman Cristine Garcia joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss a bill that could make the 4-day work week a reality.
– Welcome to Yahoo Finance Live. We’ll call it California’s answer to the Great Resignation. As Americans quit their jobs at a record rate, the state legislature is debating a bill that would cut a 40-hour workweek to just 32 hours. Let’s get a sponsor for this bill. We have Cristine Garcia, Member of the California State Assembly. We also have our very own Dani Romero joining the conversation. It’s great talking to you today. First explain the thesis to me. Why is a four-day work week the answer?
CRISTINA GARCIA: As we saw with the Great Resignation, over 47 million employees left their jobs for better opportunities. And as we return, the employees make it clear that returning to normal or what we had before is not enough. And they want better benefits in terms of free time and flexibility to do more of what they love and have better mental and emotional health.
And so this is the time to have this discussion with individuals. Companies are already experimenting with this. And they see better productivity. They don’t see a labor shortage. They don’t see any attrition. And so we have examples. Now is the time to have that discussion. Employees clearly say they want better.
DANI ROMERO: Member of the Assembly, this is Dani here. So I was looking at your bill, and it deals with non-union businesses. And on the union side? Would another bill be needed to implement and help these workers? What’s the idea on that?
CRISTINA GARCIA: The reality is that this bill is the floor, not the ceiling. And our unions have often fought for better opportunities and benefits for employees. So I guess while they’re negotiating contracts, that will be on the table and part of their negotiations there. And so they’ve been great advocates here in the state for our employees. And if that were to become a reality, I imagine that would only be the floor, not the ceiling, of their negotiations.
– I imagine that you have received a lot of reluctance from the business community. The California Chamber of Commerce said the overtime costs that would be associated with this type of change would be unsustainable. How do you respond to that?
CRISTINA GARCIA: Well, I would say the situation they are in right now is untenable. More than 60% of employers face a labor shortage. This led to many losses, forcing them to close earlier or not open at all. And so they can keep complaining about it. Or they could learn to adapt, which employees are telling them in droves.
Companies that are already adapting are doing better. There are companies that do that. Not all of the business community said no to that. Now is the time to adapt. And everyone will be better off. People’s bottom line will be better if we adapt sooner rather than later.
DANI ROMERO: And member of the assembly, it’s Dani again. So how does this differ from the federal bill proposed by California Rep. Mark Takano?
CRISTINA GARCIA: Such a big fan of the bill he introduced. But as we see the traffic jam in Washington, California has always prided itself [INAUDIBLE]. We are therefore inspired by the work of Mr. Takano. But we’re just starting somewhere and bringing stakeholders to the table to understand those details of how it works. There are many similarities with Mr. Takano’s bill.
But I think for us it’s just a starting point. We welcome stakeholders. There were some good questions about how it would work. And we are at the beginning of the process. We have just started the legislative year. We are all year round. So we took inspiration from Mr. Takano’s bill. Not identical. And as the bill progresses, we’ll see where we land.
BRIAN CHUNG: Hey, it’s Brian Cheung here. I want to know how this affects the tech space, which is obviously very prevalent in your state. How do you think this affects them? Because obviously the assessment of hours and the enforcement of that might be easier for those types of low-wage hourly workers. But for those who are salaried, how would you apply what is often the case in the tech space, which works well over 40 hours a week?
CRISTINA GARCIA: So this bill is limited to hourly employees only. But much of the tech industry is already pushing four days a week and trying to make it work. And they’re actually leading and innovating here in the state of California as well. We therefore welcome this discussion. We just put up a flag knowing it won’t cover everyone. But if we start somewhere, we expect that to trickle down to all of our other employees and all of our other businesses as well.
DANI ROMERO: And member of the audience, just to wrap up here, it’s Dani again, I wanted to shift gears a bit and talk about the California gas tax. The governor proposed the gas tax last month. I have gone through this bill. And I actually saw empty parts in there. And there was no specific reimbursement amount in this invoice nor a ceiling amount for eligible vehicles. Why isn’t there really a clear cut when it comes to this bill that a lot of Californians are really anticipating?
CRISTINA GARCIA: Well, there are 120 legislators and the governor and together we negotiate and we get to the finish line. And so I think he leaves out the things that we have to negotiate with [INAUDIBLE] and who is eligible. I’m a co-sponsor of a bill that would give all drivers $400 back for their cars there.
And it also becomes a starting point for negotiations as we look at how to relieve people at the pumps there. We work fast. The budget is due June 15. And we expect to have a solution and to solve these blind spots that you speak of.
BRIAN CHUNG: Yahoo Finance’s Dani Romero alongside California State Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia. Thank you very much for this conversation. Appreciate it.