Robots Are Coming to Walmart And Making Employees Scared for Their Jobs
Greeters may be a thing of the past at Walmart — but there will be a lot more metallic help around the stores this year.
Soon, 1,500 autonomous floor cleaners, 1,200 truck unloaders, 900 in-store pick-up towers, and 300 shelf scanners will be deployed across hundreds Walmart stores around the country as the company aims to cut labor costs and repurpose some associate-level positions to focus more on sales and customer service.
But the implementation of these autonomous bots could lead to fewer hours for current employees — a problem the company hopes to skirt with employee attrition or reassignments. Workers are worried the bots will lead to shortened hours, fewer jobs, and further staffing shortages, according to employees and Organization United for Respect (OUR) at Walmart, a labor group that advocates for these retail employees.
“This is one of a series of many decisions that [Walmart has] been making over the years to reduce the amount of humans and amount of staff that are working in the store,” says Andrea Dehlendorf, co-director of OUR Walmart. “And [it’s] dramatically increased the workload of people who are still working.”
Walmart is the largest private employer in the country, with around 4,600 stores and 2.2 million associates. The massive retailer has a history of heavily criticized labor practices, including low wages, union-busting, limiting sick day policies, and an increasing number of part-time employees. Now, workers believe this investment in automation may exacerbate these issues for lower paid employees.
“It’s the nature of the beast from what we’ve been experiencing for the last two decades,” says Arthur Wheaton, director of Western NY Labor and Environmental Programs at the Worker Institute at Cornell University. “The lowest paid, lowest skilled, and the most at-risk employees in the most precarious jobs are the ones replaced first by technology — not necessarily the CEOs or the people doing the programming.”
The role of automation, however, is tricky. Walmart advertises the robots as tools to take care of menial tasks, like mopping the floors and scanning shelves to take track of inventory on the sales floor. Workers can instead invest their time in serving customers and making sales — a critical aspect of the in-store, brick-and-mortar experience.
Walmart’s minimum wage is currently $11 — an amount that has been contended with competitors like Amazon and Target, who have raised theirs to $15 and $13 an hour, respectively, in recent months. The use of automated technology could now be effective in bettering retention rates — but keeping wages low.
Texas15 hours ago
"Walmart advertises the robots as tools to take care of menial tasks, like mopping the floors and scanning shelves to take track of inventory on the sales floor. Workers can instead invest their time in serving customers"
Sure - that's why over half of the checkout lanes are not staffed while people are funneled to self-checkout. I refuse to use self-checkout if a person is available. I'm not going to help them cut staff.
SPAMLANDFILL2 days ago
Age of Technology....employees are rapidly becoming a nonessential business expenses.....Manufacturing jobs, Mining jobs lost to robots...Now Retail jobs taxi drivers delivery even Doctor visits can now be done online with NEAR ZERO staffing
Rae17 hours ago
Duh. That's exactly what the company wants that way they don't have to pay anyone in the stores.
ShopGirl15 hours ago
When I worked in retail, some of my co-workers were complaining about folding clothes. They said they wish there was a machine that you could put the shirt into and have it come out perfectly folded. I finally spoke up and said, “you know, the day they bring that machine in is the day we’ll be out of a job.”
Dan F.15 hours ago
now is a great time to get a 2-year degree in electronics technology. A lot of community colleges are also offering degrees in robotics technology. Another good field is biomedical equipment technology. If you know how to fix stuff, you'll have a job.
Irene16 hours ago
The only thing that is constant is change. During the industrial revolution agricultural labor flocked to the cities for jobs that were no longer available in rural areas. Tunes change, change with the times to survive by acquiring new skills.
Heather16 hours ago
I love how everyone on here is mocking people who work at Walmart. AI isn't exclusive to Walmart people, it could take over a lot more jobs and professions. My husband is an automation engineer and the company he works for used to need 35-50 warehouse workers. Now that it's fully automated they need 8. He's being called to automate wearhouses all over the USA. So, laugh it up but it could be your job next.
Planefun12 hours ago
A friend who is a Walmart manager told me that one of the reasons for automation is a lot of the employees they're getting these days are nearly illiterate despite being high school grads, make demands for breaks, benefits and paid time off and mouthing off to supervisors and not doing their work. With that experience I can understand why they may not want people like that.
Carola14 hours ago
This has been expected and feared for a long time. We have always known that technology would take over numerous jobs leaving people without work.