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.
larry16 hours ago
They already have what they call "core hours" which means many employees work 15 hour weeks at min wage.
Carrol14 hours ago
It has happened to every industry. I worked at the bank before ATM's and debit cards. Think how many people that put out of work. All industries work for a profit and as wages and benefits increase, employers will find a way to replace you.
Moreofthesame16 hours ago
I hope that these reporters know that a robot could easily do their job.
Mark15 hours ago
Well when it becomes cheaper to buy a robot to do an unskilled low wage job than it is to pay a lazy worker more jobs will get replaced.
PlaneDownstairs8 hours ago
Most of the comments I see focus on jobs. The focus should be on productivity. That's the only way to move the standard of living forward. It's been happening since the dawn of man. Do we really want to be using the same technology 20 years from now? The standard of living would stagnate. Take the classic shovel vs backhoe. The backhoe can do in a day what it would take 100 days for a man to do. Look at the standard of living for the countries that still employ manual labor and low technology.
Danny8 hours ago
the whole goal is to have less employees. Robots have no benefits, no lunch break, no calling out sick and no attitude problems. In the long term they are much cheaper.
Ryan13 hours ago
I’ve been trying to warn people, if you work in a manual labor position they are going to replace you.
Tommy16 hours ago
40% of the work force will be replaced by machines. I would suggest people stop having babies.
Rita16 hours ago
When robots replace people in the work force, who will they sell their products to?
Scott2 days ago
The adoption of AI will be accelerating in the next 10 years. Estimates are that up to 50% of current jobs can be eliminated by AI. Embrace it or be replaced. Walmart cashier or McDonald's server were never meant to be careers. If students no longer want these jobs and adults demand higher wages I don't see another alternative.
LaCelle16 hours ago
I refuse to use their self-checkout lanes because those lanes mean less employees.
sdiddle15 hours ago
business doesnt exist to give people jobs..........they cut costs to stay competitive and robots have almost ZERO sick days., maternity leave, ...........you cant argue the fact that robots have MUCH better ROI
War On Errorism16 hours ago
I haven't been inside a Walmart in ten years.
Annon16 hours ago
Pretty soon, no one will have a job. Then what?
none7 hours ago
Robots do not picket for a $15 minimum wage, they show up every day on time, do not require health insurance and do exactly what they are told to do. Sounds like the perfect employee