A Sign of the Times: Oregon Union Wants to Limit Self-Checkout Machines

Last week, the Oregon AFL-CIO announced it is preparing a ballot initiative to limit the number of self-checkout kiosks allowed in a grocery store.  If the union is successful in gaining enough signatures, the initiative will be placed on the November 2020 ballot. They cleverly named their proposal the “Grocery Store Service and Community Protection Act.”

I encourage you to read the entire text of their proposal.  It starts with,

  1.  Grocery stores provide many people with their primary place of social connection and sense of community. This is particularly true for the elderly.
  2. The increasing use of self-service checkouts – where the customer does not interact with a human — contributes to social isolation and related negative health consequences;

I never associated self-checkouts with negative health consequences.  I think my blood pressure rises when I can’t scan something but I think it rises when a store clerk can’t scan something too.  At least in my case, I think the negative health consequences are no different than in a checkout line.  Maybe I’m the exception. 

Automation disrupts jobs.  That has been occurring since tools were invented.  No legislation will stop that.  Instead of fighting technological advances, the union would better serve its members and the public by developing training programs that teaches skills for today’s workplace environment.  But that doesn’t generate headlines.  Especially in an election year, headlines trump substance. 

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