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Robotics

Robot Worries Could Cause a 50,000-Worker Strike in Las Vegas (technologyreview.com) 323

Thousands of unionized hotel and casino workers in Las Vegas are ready to go on strike for the first time in more than three decades. From a report: Members of the Culinary Union, who work in many of the city's biggest casinos, have voted to approve a strike unless a deal is reached soon. Some background: On June 1, the contracts of 50,000 union workers expire, making them eligible to strike. Employees range from bartenders to guest room attendants. The last casino worker strike, in 1984, lasted 67 days and cost more than $1 million a day. Why? Higher wages, naturally. But the workers are also looking for better job security, especially from robots. "We support innovations that improve jobs, but we oppose automation when it only destroys jobs," says Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union. "Our industry must innovate without losing the human touch."
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Robot Worries Could Cause a 50,000-Worker Strike in Las Vegas

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  • Point? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Alypius ( 3606369 )
    So they're willing to go on strike to prevent their jobs from being taken by robots that can't go on strike? I can see no downside.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So they're willing to go on strike to prevent their jobs from being taken by robots that can't go on strike? I can see no downside.

      The Vegas Golden Knights hockey team is in the NHL playoffs, playing for the Stanley Cup for the first time.

      This is a big deal, with lots of people coming to Vegas to spend lots of money.

      This is when the employees have maximum leverage, so they are far more likely to get a favorable deal now that they wouldn't get at any other time.

    • Re:Point? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @12:40PM (#56673864)

      What else do you suggest they do?

      Also, the robots can take their jobs one day, not *today*. If they are able to hammer out a legally binding contract that guarantees the casinos won't replace existing workers with robots under heavy financial penalty, then it's a win for them.

      If they wait 10 years till those robots are ready to go and then strike they're screwed, so they have to play their hand now. I don't fault them in the least. Other workers in other sectors should be doing the same but too many people just consider themselves fortunate to be employed today and don't think about 10, 5 or even 1 year in the future and how their bosses are already planning their replacement.

      • If they are able to hammer out a legally binding contract that guarantees the casinos won't replace existing workers with robots under heavy financial penalty, then it's a win for them.

        Until somebody builds a competing casino when all the robots are ready and forces the old ones into bankruptcy.

        • If you think this is possible, you don't know how Vegas is run. Hint: You don't just build a better casino when certain others don't like that idea.

          • If that's how it works, then I wouldn't put my money on the workers actually getting a legal binding contract that guarantees their jobs forever.

    • In other words, they are protesting because it wasn't obvious enough to everyone how easily they could be replaced by robots? Yes, that seems pretty self defeating to me as well. If your job can be done better and more cheaply by robots, maybe you should shut up about it and train yourself for something that can't be done by robots!
    • That is because you skipped the thinking phase and went straight to posting a snarky comment on Slashdot. If you had spent 10 seconds thinking first you would realize that the robots aren't there yet, so a strike will indeed cost a lot of money to the money mongers.
  • Right to strike (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @11:41AM (#56673338)
    I fully support their right to strike since it is the only mechanism the 'common worker' has to defend themselves and ensure they get a reasonable slice of the pie. However, this is probably something that cannot be stopped.
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      It is indeed something that is a lot bigger. Especially hwo things are now.
      You have 400 working hours for 10 people. You get a robot to reduce workload 50% Instead of having people work 20 hours per week instead of 40, 5 people will be fired, so they have no income. The others have the same income and the one at the top will get the extra income normally for the 5 others.

      Well, in reality they will fire at lkeast 1 more to pay for the machine and then ask the 4 others to work 25% for free to cover the one th

      • The others have the same income and the one at the top will get the extra income normally for the 5 others.

        More likely, a sizable chunk of that "extra income" you mention goes to paying for the robot, and paying for maintenance for same.

        Note, by the by, that the same logic suggests that vacuum cleaners and washers/dryers should be disallowed in hotels, since they replace guys with brooms and washing sheets and such by hand in a washtub. We'd need a LOT more employees if all employers were restricted to us

        • A sizable chunk has to go to shareholders and executive bonuses, otherwise there is no incentive for management to change anything.

          • A sizable chunk has to go to shareholders and executive bonuses, otherwise there is no incentive for management to change anything.

            You say this in response to an article which discusses employers losing $1 million per day thanks to a union strike.

            Right. No incentive at all.

    • Re:Right to strike (Score:5, Insightful)

      by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @12:05PM (#56673558)

      I fully support their right to strike since it is the only mechanism the 'common worker' has to defend themselves and ensure they get a reasonable slice of the pie. However, this is probably something that cannot be stopped.

      Strikes don't really influence the customer like they used to (in many cases they turn off customers who aren't in unions themselves), and I'm not sure how this would affect the management other than to increase their desire to automate.

    • Re:Right to strike (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @12:17PM (#56673664)

      I tend to think of it as a goal collision between multiple different interests of the union:

      -- Ensuring that existing employees get better wages, benefits & working conditions
      -- Increasing the number of employees represented, thus increasing dues collected and clout

      The union is supposed to advocate for the former. Indeed they should be happy if automation kills 1/3rd of the jobs but leaves the remaining workers better off in terms of pay & conditions -- that's surely in the interest of the workers to get more money after all.

      Unfortunately, their incentives are aligned towards the latter because 1/3rd fewer jobs means 1/3rd fewer dues to the union and correspondingly less clout. That's why you hear about construction unions mandating ridiculous minimum staffing levels [nytimes.com] -- sometimes 2-4 times as much as super-socialist European countries!

      This isn't really about poor morals per-se (although it's at least amoral), it's just a quirk in the incentive structure. And I don't really have a solution for it -- certainly weaker unions is not in the worker's (or country's) interest either.

      • Smaller unions are less powerful unions. In order to keep protecting their laborers, unions need to stay in power.

        • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )
          Not necessarily. A tiny union of the only 3 people in the world who knows how to run your automated factory has more power over you than a union of 10,000 manual laborers who used to do that work by hand. The first is almost impossible to replace, while the second only takes some time.
    • It can't be stopped. If the next business opens up and uses robots to operate at lower cost and thus price, they'll take business from the established, and then the workers will lose jobs anyway.

      We need collective risk sharing instead.

    • Yeah, but what are they striking against? What is the outcome or promise that'll placate them?

      • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )
        I know people don't read TFA, but did you even read TFS?

        Higher wages, naturally. But the workers are also looking for better job security, especially from robots.

    • I fully support their right to strike since it is the only mechanism the 'common worker' has to defend themselves and ensure they get a reasonable slice of the pie. However, this is probably something that cannot be stopped.

      Indeed. It cannot be stopped.

      Employees are tools that produce profits; they do not get to share in them. Profits are for owners and shareholders, not employees.

      Granted, employees, like any other tool, should be maintained in reasonable working order. But when the cost to maintain a tool begins to eat into your profits, you find a better tool.

      Remember, a robot will never demand higher wages, safer working conditions, subsidized healthcare, or paid time off, nor will it ever threaten your profits b

  • by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @11:50AM (#56673408)

    I enjoy some repartee with my dealer, and to know when to walk away when they bring in a new (mean/Chiller) dealer.

    It would probably cost less, because I tip my human dealers and waitresses, but certainly less "fun". with robots. If I want creepy animatronics, I can go to a Disney park,

    I also wonder how a robodealer would figure out I was counting cards with multiple decks....

    • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @11:55AM (#56673446)
      not dealers. At a high volume bar you don't interact enough with the bartender for it to matter much. At the more expensive lower volume ones they're not going to replace the bartender because it's usually a pretty girl/hot guy for you to ogle and hit on.
    • It would probably cost less, because I tip my human dealers and waitresses, but certainly less "fun". with robots. If I want creepy animatronics, I can go to a Disney park,

      That is a valid opinion but the question would be how many people share that opinion. Slot machines don't involve a person and they are hugely popular. I could see plenty of people wanting to play blackjack or poker and not caring at all if there is a human dealer. I know I wouldn't give a shit.

      I also wonder how a robodealer would figure out I was counting cards with multiple decks....

      The dealer probably doesn't most of the time unless you are being stupidly obvious about it. It's the eye in the sky that is watching for that.

    • Last year I went to a local Racino and they had these video blackjack tables. You (and a group of other people) would sit in front of an image of a scantily dressed woman. She would "deal" you cards, which would show up on a screen by your seat. You'd place your betting and interact with the cards right there. I'm sure Vegas casinos would love to implement this. They could switch up the women as often as possible - without paying wages or benefits for the virtual women or having them need to take breaks. Pl

  • Are those the same people who used to be called hotel maids?

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @11:53AM (#56673432)
    rather than demand the continuation of exhausting and physically demanding work instead of automation you should be demanding the wealth generated by automation and civilization be evenly distributed.

    Of course can't have that since it's the socialisms...
    • The distribution is supposed to come in the form of lower-prices. A room that's attended by a robot needs to cost half that as a room with an human attendant. Same with food. When McDonald's replaces all their people with robots, it's supposed to make hamburgers cost 50cents. The balance between robots taking all the jobs is that people won't need as much money, so they won't need as much 'job.' We can cut the work-week down to 15 hours and have 3 people share the job that one was doing prev

      • Prices are set by the market for those goods and services, not the arbitrary fantasy of socialists.

      • The problem is the public trading system, coupled with governments that have protected companies and allowed them to grow beyond a size where they can be allowed to fail. In true capitalism, companies should fail all the time with new companies taking their place and perhaps other people having a chance to move up in life and become a more important part of the new stronger company with different ideas. As we have it today, companies simply siphon more and more money to the top year over year and this has
      • There will always be at least one human worker at McDonald's, because robots really suck at cleaning the restroom! But I predict in the near future they will automate to the point where only one person will be needed on duty at any time, so soon learning to clearly enunciate "would you like fries with that?" will no longer be a marketable skill.
      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

        The problem is that the prices aren't dropping. As a previous poster said, the money saved on robots is filtering UP and creating wealth rather than reducing prices. Not sure who to blame for that. It's gotta be the people who are willing to pay 'human' price for 'robot' service.

        There is no incentive for the owners to drop the prices as automation reduces cost, because currently all or most of those paying human prices can continue to do so. It's not until the amount of un/under -employed reaches a critical mass and are unable to pay human prices for robot goods that the price of those goods will move towards robot prices. But even that will be a slow transition if allowed to happen naturally.

    • Or we could try enforcing illegal immigration slave labor that drives wages down for all.

      Is it also too mean to suggest that perhaps being an entry level server is not a wise choice to make for a life-long career? The writing has been on the wall about automation for about 50 years now. We've all seen this coming.

      • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @02:07PM (#56674546)
        enough to go to college, but they _are_ smart enough to hold a gun. For thousands of years demagogues have used desperation and fear to motivate and organize these people. Perhaps if you have the guts to brutally oppress and kill them you can keep them under control. Much like we keep the population of stray dogs under control. But I don't know a lot of folks who have what it takes to go that route or who would say it's the right thing to do.

        If you abandon the working class they will turn on you out of desperation. And if you wait until they actually turn on you to oppress them it'll be too late. Now's the time to act. Either fix the world so it's a better place for everyone or hope you're gonna get to be one of the oppressors and get to work on justifications for the brutal things you're going to have to do to maintain your quality of life.
    • no, they should be training to run the robots that take their jobs in the future. probably better paying as well. they should not be talking about stealing money from others.
    • There's nothing sane about demanding companies begin evenly distributing wealth with you, just because they invested a portion of their profits in automation. Heck, in this case, none of that even happened yet. These workers are just realizing that the jobs they do could potentially be automated so they're trying to work a deal to ensure their employers don't take advantage of new technology as it becomes available to them.

      Ironically, they're striking over this in the casinos of Vegas, of all places! Let's

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      rather than demand the continuation of exhausting and physically demanding work instead of automation you should be demanding the wealth generated by automation and civilization be evenly distributed.

      Of course can't have that since it's the socialisms...

      Yep. Why don't you start by sharing some of your wealth with an African nation?

      Oh, yeah, forgot, you only want to share other people's wealth. I forgot how looney left socialists think.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yep. Why don't you start by sharing some of your wealth with an African nation?

        Oh, yeah, forgot, you only want to share other people's wealth. I forgot how looney left socialists think.

        I do. And if you and the GP live in the US (or many other countries), so do you. Here's what countries the US gives foreign aid to [mondoweiss.net]. I'm not saying the current foreign aid structure is good, but the GP is definitely sharing some their wealth with African nations.

  • First question: can robots be called "scabs" ?

    Second question: if we enact laws giving robots "human rights," as some, ahem, particular kinds of people suggest, now can they be called "scabs" ?

    Personally, despite my strong support for unions, I can't support this action. If robots are acceptable to the casino customers and their TCO is less than for people, then the union should have no control over this decision. Unions should (hah) be concerned with job qualities such as safety, pay level, benefits; no

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @12:02PM (#56673506)

    The simple fact is that they can either get on board with learning to work with automation OR they can eventually watch their jobs go away anyway when the jobs move to someplace with more pliable labor and better automation. It would not be hard for tourists to start going elsewhere if they don't like what they get. If you have a job that can be readily taken by automation then sooner or later it will be. Your only defense against this is to have a skill set that is difficult to automate. Pretending otherwise is like fooling yourself into thinking this internet thing is a fad.

    • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @12:09PM (#56673586)
      It's easy to write a comment professing "thou shalt learn a non-automatable skill" but there are many reasons why this is a vast oversimplification to the point that it is almost laughable. Education costs money, many people cannot BE educated if they have the money, and what do you educate yourself in anyway? Almost any "attainable with a college certificate" job seems to be a candidate for automation over the next 15 years or so.
    • 1) Most medical jobs cannot be outsourced. 2) The highest paid workers of the future will be the ones that work best hand-in-hand with AI. That's why I'm training all my family members to talk to computers now. "Alexa, tell me I'm pretty!"
    • > The simple fact is that they can either get on board with learning to work with automation

      How exactly does someone "work with" automation that is designed to replace you?

      > Your only defense against this is to have a skill set that is difficult to automate.

      Boy it sure is easy to get those isn't it, especially in the education utopia that is the USA. They're already starting to replace "high skill" white collar workers with software, and as general purpose automation gets better and better there will

      • How exactly does someone "work with" automation that is designed to replace you?

        You don't. You work with automation that is designed to replace someone else.

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @12:31PM (#56673764)
    Fortunately, all the striking workers can be easily replaced by robots, so it will cause no inconvenience to the companies involved! In short, when you realize that robots could do your job much better for a much lower price, you should probably shut up about it! As a consultant, I constantly bite my tongue to avoid pointing out to customers how stupid it is that they are paying me a lot of money for little benefit to their company.
  • My favorite strip club just isn't that same ever since they went completely automated...
  • All of the modded up comments in here are living in fantasy land. There are more pics of the moon landing then food service robots.

    Amazing what people will belive these days.

  • So having a fleet of robots with 3 maids instead of having 20 maids and no robots seems like a good idea.
    Yes it will displace some people, but that always happens when new technology comes along.
    The service will go up, the prices will go down, the people will move on to better jobs with more skills, if not they will be out evolved.
    The robot service industry will create new jobs.
    Yes your 50,000 workforce will be reduced to 10,000, you can't stop technology and you can't fight corporate greed, but I view this

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