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A Labor Subsidy

Robert Franklin

Posted on January 9, 2020 22:41

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When a meme and its comments inspire a quick dissection of labor practices...

The page I "operate" on Facebook for my writing has less to do with my writing these days, and has become something of a meme stash. While I should be more vigilant about sharing my work to it -- after all, that is its purpose -- I've fallen into a bad habit of not doing so. Unfortunately, this also applies when I write something inspired by one of those memes, or a comment left on it...

A few days ago, I posted a meme about self-checkout lanes, a topic that, on its face, doesn't have the same narrative flair as, say, President Trump's impending (maybe) impeachment trial, or the fact that he ordered the assassination of a high-ranking military official from a sovereign nation.

Self-checkout lanes, also interestingly, rarely skate into the litany of conversations about worker's rights in the United States. Yet, despite that, I see this particular detail as important, thus I posted...

It's a valid point, I think. However, the third comment down kind of missed the point and took a soapbox instead.

I don't think the technology itself is the enemy. I think it's effectively the future in the present. A cashier's job can, unfortunately, be automated.

In my industry, these are equivalently called ATMs.

My problem with self-checkout is that they are, effectively, the consumer subsidizing labor so companies don't have to pay for it themselves. Self-checkout lines turn the consumer into the cashier at the expense of the cashier position, and is cheaper than hiring staff and dealing with turnover.

I appreciate the cost-effectiveness, but I simply cannot will that appreciation to outweigh the damage it can do to the job market, especially since those who drive capitalism in the United States have not demonstrated that job elimination will coincide with new opportunities for those being shown the door, particularly when it involves workers lower in the hierarchy than others.

On a selfish level, I don't appreciate the audacity of my local grocery store, for example, installing self-checkout lanes to begin with, as if dangling "convenience" and "expediency" in front of me will make it so I don't have a problem doing a task someone else has been hired and trained to do because the company doesn't really want to pay anyone else to do it.

I'm not okay with doing someone else's job, especially if it means they won't have a job to do, and thus, won't have a way to make (at least in part) the money they need to live in a world that is becoming increasingly expensive and increasingly heartless.

I don't devalue the position of cashier. I've been one, and I don't think I'm too good to do it again. But there are people out there who need these jobs more than I need the convenience to quickly scan my own groceries, especially if that means a half-dozen self-checkout lines means a half-dozen less jobs a company has to provide.

Robert Franklin

Posted on January 9, 2020 22:41

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Source: Vox - All

Yes! Because you won’t like what it spawns next. Rochester, New York, is a notorious model of terrible urban planning...

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