The United Auto Workers has gone on strike against all three of the big automakers, and one of their demands is a 4-day week.

Regardless of whether it succeeds or not, the fact that the UAW has included the 4-day week in its demands is itself a game changer. In 2019, the AFL-CIO talked about a 4-day week in a report on the future of labor; it looks like the future is now.

If they win the concession, I see two big impacts.

First, the UAW helps set the agenda for the entire labor movement; even in non-unionized businesses they influence how American workers and business owners think about labor. So it would help move the 4-day week up the adoption curve, and turn it from an early adopter move for companies that want to stand out in their industry, to a mainstream aspiration for every worker and business owner.

Second, it would re-establish the idea that the benefits of automation and technological innovation should be shared with workers in the form of living wages and more free time, not just converted into higher stock dividends and CEO bonuses. Given how many jobs and industries could be upended by AI in the next few years, the idea that we should use innovation to make work better, rather than use it to destroy jobs (and thus communities, family stability, faith in the American system), would be a huge turnaround in our thinking.