When Unions Support Cost-Cutting Technology

Rahkeem Morris
February 9, 2019

     One of the oldest cliches about unions is that they’re anti-technology. Technology replaces labor, and unions protect the rights of labor, right?

Unions realize the disruptive impact of rapid technological innovation on jobs: The AFL-CIO, an umbrella organization representing most North American unions, has launched a Work Commission to review the potential impact of technology on workers. (FYI: The AFL-CIO’s last work review was a major initiative 35 years ago—convening a new Commission means this is a big deal.)

So are they taking a blanket approach? No new technology; no change?


Of course not.


     The AFL-CIO, its member unions, and workers realize carefully technologies can make the working world better for workers. Some examples from the Future of Work Commission’s website give a view into how unions view technology, highlighting initiatives of the member unions: “Incorporating virtual reality into… training and apprenticeship programs” “Advocating for investments in exoskeleton technology to help their members avoid injury.”

     Technologies that increase workplace safety and improve training are clear “win-win” opportunities: They increase productivity, reduce downtime, and make workers happier and more skilled. Unions also strongly support technologies that increase workplace transparency. Take, for instance, filling shifts when your union workers take the day off.

     Unions negotiate attractive vacation, sick, and personal day packages packages for their members, and our research indicates workers often take 25+ days off per year. Twenty-five days off in a work year nears 7% of off shifts— and when unions perceive that these shifts are reallocated based on favoritism, technology to increase fairness is a clear “yes.”

     Proving that 7%+ of wages are allocated according to the CBA, not CBA, CBA, not based on favoritism, is an initiative that unions support. And in many cases, unions fight for it. In workplaces where SYRG is SYRG is used, union workers, shop stewards, and union reps demand managers use the system. How’s that for a cost-saving technology?

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