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News Roundup: Future of Retail Caters to Wealthy, Leaves Middle Class Behind

August 2, 2019 Updated: September 8, 2020

Future of Retail Caters to Wealthy, Leaves Middle Class Behind

With Amazon’s dominance squeezing traditional retailers and causing thousands of job losses, experts predict big changes for the industry where only luxury stores that cater to the wealthy will employ human workers.

Tech and automation being used to replace human workers will likely lead to a future where middle-class consumers still shop in stores and eat in restaurants, but with fewer human workers to help them.

This future is already becoming a reality. On a recent trip to Target, one shopper saw a “now hiring” sign on the door advertising the new $13-an-hour starting wage. But only one employee manned the checkout area, and that person was mainly ushering customers to the self-checkout registers. Not exactly the “service with a smile” so many customers look for when they shop.

New York Increases Scrutiny of Automation and Robots

A new law in New York mandates a statewide task force to examine the implications of the rise of robotics and automation in the state. The panel will look at the day-to-day impact of technological advancements on consumers’ everyday lives. This can include gig economy impacts, warehouse automation, autonomous vehicle injuries, discrimination by algorithm in the lending industry. “It’s not just cyborgs and chatbots” said one of the law’s authors.

Mess up at Self-check? At Walmart, They’ll Call the Cops

Policies that result in criminal charges for folks who “shoplift” from Walmart in Tennessee are getting a closer look after the Mayor’s wife was detained after problems with a self-checkout machine. Mayor Scott Conger’s wife was charged with a misdemeanor after mis-scanning items at a self-checkout in what Conger is calling an “overzealous” prosecution despite never having left the store. The Walmart stores in town represent 80 percent of the cases in Jackson city court and half of those cases deal with self-checkout “theft.”

Digital Helps Lock in Schedules for Union Workers

Digital scheduling is often paired with on-call policies that often make retail jobs harder for workers and families, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Employers that partner with unions, like the RWDSU, have successfully used digital scheduling to provide more predictability, rewards for experience and reduce costly turnover.

That’s according to a report from WorkJam, a digital workplace firm who says that digitizing the schedule process can “harmonize the relationships between employers and unions” and increase transparency and trust.

Number of the Week: 36 Percent

That’s how much more shipping is costing Amazon now as the company’s move to physical retail stays flat and they try to keep faster shipping promises. It’s hard to see relief around the corner for the company as the efforts to expand into brick and mortar are “essentially flat.” Says one pundit: “Amazon’s future may be quite a bit more bumpy than its recent past.”

Any upcoming stories about the impact of automation on the retail industry and the economy?

If you’re interested in speaking with UFCW, email awhite@www.ufcw.org for a quote, statistics, or interviews with workers in retail and other sectors of the economy.

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