32-hour workweek becomes a reality in San Juan County
Aug 23, 2023, 1:04 PM
Many of us have dreamed of a four-day, 10-hour-a-day workweek. But a four-day, 32-hour work week was almost too good to imagine.
In San Juan County, the impossible dream has become a reality as, by unanimous vote, the San Juan County Council approved the move Tuesday.
Officials negotiated with a labor union that represents 142 nurses, environmental stewards, road crew workers, park workers, clerks and other county employees.
Workers will get the same pay as they did in a 40-hour week.
“The Gee & Ursula Show” addressed the issue on Wednesday.
“I love the idea,” co-host Ursula Reutin said. “Maybe you’re just going to work smarter and work harder in those 32 hours than the 40 hours. And this is a way to actually keep people working, maybe get more people to work. And so I would be okay, but I just want to see how it plays out.”
San Juan County is the first in the state and one of the first in the country to go to a 32-hour workweek. The county said it could not come up with the money the union wanted, so it came up with this solution.
“I’ll tell you why I’ll be okay,” co-host Gee Scott explained. “When people are rested, and they come to work, and they’re like, ‘Yo, I had a good three days off.’ I would argue that some people get more work done in four days, than some in five.”
The county said it won’t be taking away any services to the island residents, but office hours might be shorter.
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“I can’t believe that services aren’t going to be cut,” Ursula responded. “Whether it’s King County or the City of Seattle or any other county, there are services, and there are things that are not happening because of some of the changes that were made during the pandemic.”
The county will stagger schedules in certain cases and cluster shifts in other cases to keep departments working and to complete projects on time, according to County Manager Mike Thomas in an interview with The Seattle Times.
“We knew we needed to find a way to compensate our employees” but didn’t want to “turn to the taxpayer” for more funds, Thomas explained.
“They have a difficult time hiring for people who have to go to doctor’s appointments and that kind of thing,” Ursula said. “Many times they actually have to come into Seattle, so there’s a lot of travel time.”
The county encompasses the San Juan Islands and has a population of about 18,000. The new hours start in October.
Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.