How bad can it get?

How bad is the competition between automation and human workers getting? There was an article in the local paper recently entitled Garbage workers sound off that might give a hint as to where we are heading.

The city of Raleigh, NC is getting ready to buy a fleet of new, automated garbage trucks. In the process, 122 garbage collectors will lose their jobs. The city says it will give the displaced workers other jobs, but we all know what that means. That is what every employer tells workers when they install automation. Auto workers, for example, have heard that line for decades. As soon as a recession comes along, all of the workers replaced by automation -- the ones who were promised "other jobs" -- get laid off.

The article contains a wide variety of comments from the workers. Some of them make sense, some don't. That's really not the point. The point is, these guys are garbage collectors. They work, "for wages that force guys with families to take second jobs. Many of the guys cannot afford to live in Raleigh proper." So these garbage collectors are not getting paid tons of money. Yet, even though they are literally wading through garbage every working day and are not making much money, they took the time to call the reporter and talk with her about their jobs.

Why would they do that? Perhaps because they are worried. They are worried that if they lose their current jobs -- wading through garbage making not much money -- they may actually end up with even worse jobs once they are fired. It is hard to imagine jobs any worse, yet these guys have no trouble imagining it. Because of their fears, they are trying to save their current jobs. They don't want to be replaced by automated garbage trucks.

That tells you something about today's economy, today's job market, and the effects that automation is having on the employment landscape.

The article From programming to delivering pizza offers another perspective on the same problem. Understanding the severity of the current labor slump is also pertinent.

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