Today’s News & Commentary — July 24, 2017
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer published an op-ed in today’s N.Y. Times, in which he outlined the Democratic Party’s “better deal” for American workers. The three stated goals of the new agenda are to increase pay, reduce expenses, and provide workers with tools for the new economy. Democrats will announce policy proposals to stop prescription drug price gouging, strengthen antitrust laws, and give tax credits to employers that are training workers for unfilled jobs.
On Sunday, San Antonio officials discovered at least 39 people packed into a tractor-trailer that was parked at a local Walmart. Eight men were already dead, and another died later in the hospital. The victims were as young as 15 years old, and authorities claim that they were transported across the U.S.-Mexico border as part of an immigrant smuggling operation.
As California’s farmers face shortages in immigrant labor, the L.A. Times reports that they are racing to replace workers with robots. The $47-billion agricultural industry is aiming to remake itself with technological innovation so as not to risk losing entire crops that are grown so labor-intensively that they will be hard to sustain. According to a Pew Research Center study, the net flow of workers across the U.S.-Mexico border reversed in 2005, at a rate that accelerated through 2014. Even as wages for crop production in California have increased at a higher rate than the state average, native-born Americans are not interested in filling the positions left open by a dwindling supply of new immigrant labor.
Likewise, the Wall Street Journal reports that retailers and logistics companies are testing robotic “pickers” in their distribution centers to help them keep up with growth in online sales. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, last year U.S. e-commerce revenues hit $390 billion, which is nearly twice as much as e-commerce revenues in 2011. This explosive growth has led to hundreds of thousands of additional jobs, but labor shortages are becoming more common. Bringing in robots to pick items off shelves and pack them for shipping could help meet the pressure to ship faster and cut the labor cost of fulfilling online orders by twenty percent.