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Empowering Workers in the Age of Automation

National AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler penned a joint op-ed with Senator Sherrod Brown (Ohio) on legislation he introduced that would ensure workers are notified about, trained, and compensated when employers decide to adopt new job-affecting technology. They write:

“[The Workers’ Right to Training Act] gives workers advance notice when their employer adopts new technology and requires that workers receive training on it. The bill also requires companies to bargain directly with workers when they implement any of these changes. No one knows the workplace better than workers themselves. They should have a say in how technology is deployed.”

Senator Brown’s proposed legislation, The Workers’ Right to Training Act, would:

  • Require companies to provide 180 days advanced notice to workers when new technology will change employment positions and provide 270 days advanced notice if jobs will be eliminated. Employers must bargain directly with employees on how best to implement new technology.

  • Require employers to pay for and provide on-the-job training to any employees who will be affected by the introduction of new technology. Companies must either provide training to employees whose jobs will change as a result of new technology or to employees who will lose their job to help these workers obtain a different position at a similar company.

  • Require employers to provide six-month severance to all workers who lose their jobs as a result of new technology.

Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor said of the proposed legislation:

“The future of work should be centered on how to improve the lives of working people, not how to increase profits for employers seeking to lower labor costs. The Workers Right to Training Act is the kind of policy working people in this country need immediately. I applaud Senator Brown for showing leadership on this important issue. Oregon’s Union Movement is dedicated to ensuring the quality of the jobs of the future is not eroded by short-sighted corporate decisions. Workers must have a voice in how technological advancements impact their jobs and industries, and we must take a holistic approach to building power for workers in a changing and precarious 21st Century economy. We plan to pursue a legislative strategy in Oregon to do exactly that.”

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