Oregon Minimum Wage Hike Sets Up Automation Fight
Voters in Oregon could be asked this fall to decide on a measure limiting the number of grocery store self-checkout lanes.
The Oregon AFL-CIO is collecting signatures in an attempt to force a ballot initiative for a bill called The Grocery Store Service and Community Protection Act, that limits self-checkout stations to two per store.
Stores are turning to self-checkouts to cut labor costs after many jurisdictions raised the minimum wage, as Connecticut lawmakers did earlier this year.
Although this effort is happening on the West Coast, many in Connecticut are wondering if it signals a national campaign against businesses.
In Oregon, the minimum wage in the metro Portland area will increase to $14.75 an hour by July 2022.
The Oregon AFL-CIO, which represents the state’s labor unions, claims the “wide scale use of self-checkout machines in our state’s grocery stores is part of a deliberate corporate strategy that relies on automation to reduce labor costs and eliminate jobs.”
The unions claim automation disproportionately affects workers of color, and inconveniences customers — especially the elderly and disabled.
But the Northwest Grocery Association, which represents grocers, called the ballot effort “a bit perplexing and very misguided.”
The association noted that “today’s customer wants convenience and less hassle when shopping” including self-checkout.
“Job number one for every retailer in Oregon is to serve the customer the way the customer wants to be served,” the association said in a statement.
“We always welcome public debate on important issues but this seems to be a union tactic to legislate grocery store management in a time of technological advancement.”
Given Connecticut’s similar increase in the minimum wage, the question becomes: Will organized labor here soon turn their efforts to fight the increased automation the business community has warned about for years?
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