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News Roundup: Target More Like Walmart Than It Claims

November 1, 2019 Updated: September 8, 2020

Target More Like Walmart on Automation Than It Claims

Target CEO Brian Cornell recently claimed the company takes a different approach to automation than Walmart. But Target is more like its competitor than it wants to admit. Both companies are testing robots in their warehouses, and Target has added self-checkout and automatic cash-counting machines to hundreds of stores in recent years. The fact that it has fewer robots in stores doesn’t change the reality that it is pushing some of the same automation that hurts customer service and forces people out of jobs.

Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents retail workers across the country, said that companies that automate certain tasks are not ‘freeing up’ staff to work with customers. “The truth is, they are de-skilling jobs and cutting workers’ hours to make a buck providing less service to customers and chipping away at good jobs for hardworking people,” he said.

Holiday Hiring Boom, but Not for People

The holiday rush has always been prime time for hiring temporary and seasonal workers and millions of people earn extra cash working over the holidays. But that may be on the way out. Robotics companies are reporting a “holiday hiring boom” of robots at companies like XPO Logistics. Separately, Amazon’s holiday hiring has fallen over the last three years as humans play an ever-smaller role in their growing operation.

Robots Should Not Be on Sidewalks

That was the discovery of one wheelchair user at the University of Pittsburgh. Experimental food delivery robots have been pulled from campus after the graduate student reported she was trapped in traffic by the robot that was occupying the curb cut designated for wheelchair use. The robot refused to move. This student wasn’t the only one – other wheelchair users have reported that they couldn’t get around robots on sidewalks as well.

Number of the Week: 84 Percent

That’s the percentage of workers who are getting additional education through their workplace, motivated by their concerns about the future of work. According to the Bright Horizons survey, “the automation of jobs is driving employees to have ‘unprecedented interest’ in tuition reimbursement and other educational benefits.”

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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