In 2018, the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, held the first meeting of their newly formed commission on the future of work — the first time they had held such a commission since 1983.
During this first meeting, union leaders spoke about how technology is creating opportunity for American workers — new products, supply chain improvements, new jobs — while at the same time disrupting traditional pathways to the middle class. At one point AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:
“Our experience has also taught us that there is a right way and a wrong way to unleash new tools. Will we let the drivers of inequality pervert technology to foster greater economic injustice and social unrest? Or will we demand that technology improves lives and raises standards and wages across the board? This commission believes technology must be used for good, not greed.”
We know that technology is changing the nature of work — as we’ve written before, automation, robotics and machine learning will make obsolete tens of hundreds of millions of jobs in the coming years. But we also know that there are thousands of entrepreneurs and researchers working to harness these same technologies to improve job quality, empower workers through education and job training, improve employee earning potential and ultimately create new pathways to the middle class.