LIMA — Anticipating widespread disruption from autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies that could eliminate thousands of jobs, US. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is introducing legislation that would require companies to warn and retrain workers whose jobs are changed or lost by new technologies.
Brown unveiled his plan to a roundtable of union leaders, school officials and local leaders at the UAW Local 1219 hall in Lima on Friday to learn how such legislation could benefit workers in the community.
“Too many workers are left behind when companies decide to adopt new technology,” Brown said. “We must work to ensure that workers aren’t treated as a cost to be minimized but rather treated with the dignity they’ve earned to have an equal say in how best to implement new technology in the workplace.”
Brown’s legislation would require companies to give 180 days’ notice to workers whose jobs will be changed by new technologies and 270 days’ notice when jobs will be eliminated, according to a brief provided by Brown’s office.
Companies would also be required to bargain directly with workers when implementing new technologies and to pay for retraining programs to help those displaced by automation to find new work within the same or similar field.
And companies who eliminate jobs would be required to pay six month’s severance to workers who are terminated as the result of new technologies.
Brown plans to introduce his legislation, the Workers’ Right to Training Act, when Congress resumes in September.
Allen County is particularly vulnerable to automation-related disruption.
The Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, found that 32.5% of jobs in this county are at high-risk of exposure to automation.
Occupations with the largest share of workers whose jobs are most susceptible to automation include food preparation, heavy freight truck drivers, servers, stock clerks, order fillers and machinists.
Jason Frey, a secretary and treasurer for the Teamsters Local 908 union, already worries about the potential for autonomous vehicles to displace truck drivers, despite the industry’s struggle to find enough drivers to fill positions today.
“If I had a son right now that’s graduating, I would tell him stay away from the truck driving industry because we don’t know how long that’s going to be there,” Frey said. “If these self-driving trucks develop, you could be signing up for a job that could be gone in another 15-20 years.”
The potential for emerging technologies to disrupt Lima’s economy is something that worries Mayor David Berger, too.
“I’ve got a refinery on one side of town and I’ve got an engine plant on the other, and when electrified vehicles or autonomous vehicles come to the fore in large numbers, the disruption will be enormous,” said Lima Mayor David Berger. “I think anticipating that disruption, even when we’ve got as strong an economy as we have now, is exactly what needs to happen. … We have to have a pipeline of resources to anticipate that, both from a training standpoint and from a social service standpoint.”