Amazon Exemplifies Replacement of Human with Robots
This is what is creating a new class of jobless or near-jobless workers
By pushing people out of of production and distribution, robotic high-tech is creating a new, proletarian class of jobless human beings.
This stark reality — strongly felt, but imperfectly understood by the 99 percent — is what has underlain the radical candidacies on the left and the right: Sanders and Trump.
The rapidly growing retail giant, Amazon, shows clearly how the shift is happening.
The web-based retailer — operating out of warehouses as big as 60 football fields — is not only digging the graves of bricks-and-mortar stores like Macy’s and Walmart, but the graves of the workers themselves.
That’s not simply because Amazon is replacing human stock pickers in its massive warehouses — at last count, it has 30,000 Kiva robots on the ground in 13 “fulfillment centers,” twice the number it used just a year ago.
Working three shifts, these robots replace at least 90,000 human beings. Amazon owns the company that produces the Kivas and has plans to employ them in every one of its many more warehouses in the U.S. and Canada.
That’s more than 400,000 jobs gone — already — in the warehouses alone. And, of course, all the on-line retailers are attempting to follow Amazon’s example.
But Amazons robots are also replacing the hundreds of thousands of workers in malls and big-box stores, where whole chains are throwing up their hands and closing, having lost out to on-line shopping.
“Macy’s just signaled the end of the American department store as we know it,” Business Insider headlined on February 2, as Macy’s closed 40 stores. “Store closings are the hottest trend in retail,” headlined CNN Money, February 25.
Kohl’s has announced it was closing 18 stores in 2016 alone. Sears is closing 50 stores. JC Penney has closed 74 stores in the past two years. In early January, Walmart announced it was closing 154 stores in the U.S. with 10,000 workers affected.
But the chains that are closing outlets are not just big-box stores like Walmart or mall anchors like Macy’s.
Last year, Gap closed 25 percent of its stores. In early March of this year, Sports Authority filed for bankruptcy and began closing its 140 stores. In April, Sport Chalet started going-out-of-business sales at its 47 stores.
It isn’t for lack of trying. In recent years, most of these brick-and-mortar retailers have hired more and more part-timers and pressured their workers to sell more and more merchandise — classic wage-cutting and speed-up to compete with new technology. They are failing
This is what is creating the “new class” of workers. And it is happening very quickly. Economists expect half our existing jobs to be gone within 20 years — and that’s conservative. Through family and friends, everybody will be affected.
A new day is dawning. Wake up, America!.