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How Unions Can Protect The Workers Who Are Most Vulnerable To Automation

Published Sunday, October 13, 2019
by Ken Green/UnionTrack
How Unions Can Protect The Workers Who Are Most Vulnerable To Automation

Automation has irrevocably changed the workplace and Workers’ roles in it

There’s no arguing the advances in Workplace Automation have made - and will continue to make - many jobs obsolete.

According to McKinsey Researchers James Manyika, et al., by the year 2030 some 800 million Workers across the globe will have lost their jobs due to automation. 

“Even in the best of times, many, if not most, Workers will strain to manage the coming necessary adjustments as automation and AI change or eliminate many jobs, while simultaneously creating new ones,” write Robert Maxim and Mark Muro at The Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

It’s a future for which many Workers are unsure how to prepare.

That’s where Unions have to step in and lead the charge by giving Workers a roadmap for navigating such a future while holding Employers accountable.

Here’s are some ways Organized Labor can mitigate automation’s threats to Workers:

Adaptation is going to be the key to survival for Workers in a more-automated economy.

“Unions need to figure out how to help workplaces and Workers adapt to new technologies to reduce layoffs if Workers are to have hope of surviving and even thriving in the face of this threat,” writes Labor Reporter Steven Greenhouse.

Most Workers, either through job change or role transition, will eventually have to learn how to work side-by-side with automated machines, says Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute: “People increasingly, over time, will have to be complements to the work that machines do.”

For Workers, this will mean reskilling for new roles and responsibilities to stay relevant in the workforce.

“The people are going to require a new set of skills to maintain their ability to support themselves and have a decent quality of life,” Susan Schurman, a Labor Studies Professor at Rutgers University, tells Bloomberg Law

Unions are in a position to lead the way in helping Workers adapt to new technologies and reskill to prepare them for successful transitions in the automated workplace, but they must work together with employers to be effective

Daniel Bustillo, the Director of the Healthcare Career Advancement Program, a National Network of Service Employees International Unions (SEIU) and health care employers, says Unions and employers both have equal responsibility to provide retraining programs to Workers. 

For Unions, the Collective Bargaining Agreement is the best mechanism available to push companies for Employee retraining.

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