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Has this ever happened to you at the grocery store?

You’ve collected all of your items and you’re standing in line at the checkout stand. You notice the lines are longer because there aren’t as many open stands as there used to be.

Then something happens. A clerk taps you on the shoulder and lets you know “the self-checkout line is open.”

What do you do?

I simply say, “No thanks, I’m off the clock and I’m not going to take someone else’s job.”

None of us asked for the technology that makes self-checkout stands a reality, but it’s here anyway. Corporations are spending millions on these things, and they can affect your job, your wages, your pension, your contract and your entire community.

How so?

  1. They eliminate jobs. Self-checkout machines are part of a major push by companies to increase their profits by eliminating workers from their payrolls. After all, a machine doesn’t expect to be paid. It doesn’t require health benefits or a pension. And when it breaks, it goes to the scrapheap and is replaced by a new machine. As jobs disappear, more and more workers will become desperate for a job. Any job. And as a result, wages will go down.
  2. They undermine health and pension benefits for everyone. If you work in a supermarket, your employer pays designated amounts of money into your health and pension trust funds for every hour you work. The quality of your benefits relies on maintaining enough of these employer contributions to pay for those benefits. If we reduce the total number of members who work in the stores, your health care and your retirement security could be at risk, even if you keep your job.
  3. These machines hurt your community. The entire community suffers with each worker who gets replaced by a self-checkout machine. Unemployed people are unable to pay taxes that in turn pay the wages of police officers, firefighters, teachers and others we rely upon for essential services. And employers with fewer employees pay less in payroll taxes that also support these services.
  4. Customers prefer human beings to machines. Shoppers like to deal with real human beings who greet them with a smile, ask if they need anything else, and bag their groceries. Self-checkout machines do none of that. But they do cause frustrated and angry customers who have to wait for a human to help them when something goes wrong, as it often does.

Technology has always driven the American economy, and our union has generally welcomed technology with open arms — as long as the jobs and dignity of our members are respected and protected. This is why UFCW Local 99 seeks to engage employers on how they can use technology to increase productivity and profits while keeping the “human touch” that shoppers crave.

In the meantime, you can do your part by avoiding those self-checkout contraptions.

The next time an employee taps you on the shoulder and suggests passing your groceries through a machine instead of a proper check stand, say what I say:

“No thanks, I’m off the clock and I’m not going to take someone else’s job.”