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News Roundup: Would you want to rely on a robot in an emergency?

December 6, 2019 Updated: September 8, 2020

RoboCop No Help in Emergencies

That’s what one California woman discovered when a fight broke out while she was watching her kids at the playground. Nearby, a police robot was patrolling, but when she went over to it to press a button to summon help the robot just told her to move out of the way. It then wandered off playing an “intergalactic tune.” Someone finally called for help on a regular cell phone and an injured park patron was taken away in an ambulance. This isn’t the first time a security robot has had issues, in Washington, DC, a similar robot ran itself into a fountain in 2017.

Fun fact: The cost to rent a fancy police robot? Roughly the same per year as an entry-level Police Department salary in that same California city.

Blind Walmart Self-Checkout User Arrested

Self-checkouts at Walmart and other stores are notoriously inaccessible to blind users – so much so that the National Federation of the Blind sued Walmart last year. But in the latest indignity, a New Hampshire man was arrested and prosecuted by Walmart for bagging items without scanning them.

He argued that he had tried to pay for items but because the kiosks were inaccessible, the machines had failed to register them. He’ll be sentenced December 10th for stealing a can of corned beef hash. Walmart said it “acted in good faith” though this clearly is not the friendly service the retailer claims to offer.

Cities Go Cashless, and Leave Residents Behind

Some cities are increasingly pushing residents away from cash to pay for city services and information – but what consequences will that have for those with fewer resources? That’s the struggle facing cities like Washington, D.C. where services as basic as busses and libraries are requiring cards for payment – but more than 1 in 5 D.C. residents have limited access to the banking services required for this payment method.

But still, the local transit authority is considering a surcharge for cash transactions which could leave the city’s low-income residents literally missing the bus.

Number of the Week: 17 Percent

If a worker’s state has a union density above 17 percent, they are more likely to be protected from the job displacement threatened by many companies pushing automation with robots. That’s according to The Century Foundation, which said that unions had a leveling effect – not preventing the rollout of new technologies, but blunting its impact and ensuring new tech works for workers, instead of just replacing them.

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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