Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

December 20, 2013

Labor setting its sights on Amazon

(Continued)

But an even bigger risk is automation. Amazon is plowing a lot of money into automating its warehouse operations; it spent a fortune buying a robot company in 2012. So far, that automation — for example, having a central computer system that tells workers exactly which orders to pick — is mostly aimed at making workers more productive. But it’s clear that it has its eyes on robots, which will do a lot of the picking themselves. The easier workers are to replace, the less leverage they will have.

Of course, that may be an argument for unionizing quickly; if unions can take over Amazon’s workforce, they may be able to slow or halt the pace at which workers are replaced. That would probably be bad news for Amazon’s customers and shareholders. But it would be a big victory for a labor movement that hasn’t had many of those recently.

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