No, immigrants are not taking our jobs. Robots are.

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 Andrew Yang, while never a particularly viable candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination, did run on a particularly unique platform. Politicians, distracted by the vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric of President Trump, typically focus on defending immigrants and their families from fear-mongering and racism. Both sides fail to account for an increasingly problematic economic situation that’s only getting worseautomation.

   On the forefront of the crusade towards automation is none other than our friend Jeff Bezos. Amazon has implemented cutting edge technology to edge out workers and increase their profit margins. One of the most popular and innovative examples is the cashier-free Amazon Go supermarket, which has popped up in 26 locations around the United States, including Seattle, New York and Chicago. These markets feature state-of-the-art sensors that eliminate the need for checkout stations and, in turn, cashiers. Instead, the sensors detect which products get taken off the shelf and charge the products to the customer’s Amazon account.

   Amazon Go is just the beginning of Amazon’s drive to automate. Bezos, under mounting pressure to provide larger and more substantial returns to his investors, has overseen the testing of remote drone delivery and warehouse automation. If widely implemented, these technologies could jeopardize the $15/hr jobs of warehouse workers and Amazon delivery drivers, not to mention jobs of USPS, FedEx and UPS workers who often deliver Amazon packages as well. While these advances may very well lower prices for consumers and benefit investors, the workers who previously enjoyed decent wages and benefits would be left jobless and out of luck.  

   Automation isn’t a trend exclusive to Amazon, either. As I mentioned before, Andrew Yang partially campaigned on the idea of implementing a universal basic incomea “freedom dividend”to combat automation, specifically within the trucking industry.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 3.5 million truck drivers working in the United States in 2019, and millions more working in the trucking industry as mechanics, bookkeepers, secretaries, etc. Recent advances in automation and concerns regarding a lack of oversight for drivers has resulted in the installation of devices called Electronic Logging Devices. These devices monitor driving schedules, hours on the road, speed and location. The stated goal of the ELDs is to combat driver fatigue and eliminate undue pressure on drivers to reach destinations expediently. Despite this, truck drivers are still suspicious.

   Truckers have staged protests in the past few years against the widespread implementation of the ELDs out of fear that they’re the first step towards more intrusive technologies like inward-facing cameras and brainwave-monitoring hats.  These technologies, truckers argue, are steps on the path towards automation. The pervading (and misguided) belief that automation will come overnight to replace million jobs keeps anxiety high for the people working in vulnerable industries, but their fears are definitely justified.

   For people like truck drivers, most of whom don’t have college degrees, driving commercially offers a stable, well-paying job that pays the bills with little need for prior experience or a formal education. In an increasingly service-based economy like the United States, such jobs are diamonds in the rough for the working-class.

   Many people celebrate automation, technological advances and the soaring stocks of giant tech conglomerates like Google and Amazon, and for good reason. When companies cut costs, consumers benefit. But like the tax cuts of 2017, the benefits of these cuts are often lopsided. Investors and the very wealthy can save millions of dollars off such cuts, while working and middle-class consumers save a few bucks here and there. What we need are real, workable solutions that help even out the benefits of automation, and keep the ultra wealthy from disproportionately benefitting.