By AL CALLOWAY
What too many low-to-moderate income American workers don’t seem to grasp is how soon they will be unemployed and unemployable, without proper training. There, too, is the problem of training. The immediate future is about robotics and artificial intelligence, defined as, “the application of computers to areas normally regarded as requiring human intelligence,” says the Oxford American Dictionary.
Not many people with an inadequate grade school mis-education will be able to handle the technical information required to initiate training for jobs of the future that are already showing some prominence in many industries. What will society do with these displaced workers of the future? What can they be retrained to do? Technology produces better efficiency and more profit, but fewer jobs.
Cashiers, stock clerks, customer service representatives and fast food workers, to name a few, are, in large part, short lived jobs that will begin to shrink dramatically during the next few years. While fast food jobs rose 23.3 percent since 2000 and profits increased by 14.5 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to the U. S. Department of Labor, guess what? Wages fell 5.5 percent nationally.
Very soon robots will be doing most of the fast food industry labor and the humans on site will be highly trained in computer technology and robotics. There will be no bathroom or lunch breaks for the robots and they can be programmed to work as long as necessary, without ever stopping. By the way, do you know of any kid in your neighborhood that is into robotics? Are there any in your church?
A crucial set of questions that loom paramount is what will black communities do to get workers retrained and school kids prepared for the world they will inhabit as adults? A typical fast food worker is a female with one or more kids who gets food stamps and may work two part-time jobs with no benefits. With that it is still hard to just get by. And if she belongs to a church, this poor worker is yet required to tithe.
Fast food workers aside, other retail workers are falling by the wayside daily. During the last two months 30 thousand workers were fired, especially employees of general merchandise stores. Since last October almost 90 thousand workers were fired by J. C. Penny, Sears, Macy’s, and others. Kohl’s and Target are also struggling. Digital and mobile buying is causing whole malls to struggle.
Amazon is the king of on-line buying and is currently hiring 30 thousand parttime workers. (Amazon is now worth $410 billion – almost twice the value of WalMart.) What once was a trickle is now a growing steady stream of people buying more goods and services with cell phones, tablets and PCs rather than shopping at malls and big stores.
Radio Shack recently went bankrupt, again and last Thursday, Staples announced that more stores would be closing. Payless announced the closing of hundreds of stores while Sports Authority and others filed for bankruptcy during 2016. But guess what? The economy is doing great for a few and pretty good for others. It is also frightfully okay for most middle class professionals other than technology nerds whose only worry is keeping up.
This looming crisis of mass unemployables is about to hit America’s inner cities and rural areas with great visceral impact.
That is why the Trump administration wants to beef up law enforcement and is renewing prison privatization pacts. While Congress plays ideological warfare, the short-term saving grace for a rather stable America cannot get to the floor of either house. Infrastructure development is the immediate key folks: jobs!
When infrastructure development does start, how will black communities ensure receiving a fair share of government contracts and jobs? Is there any organizing underway at the local and state levels? Are black elected officials organizing regionally and nationally, is there a strategy?
Black churches also have to do something. They cannot be allowed to just sit there, everywhere within black neighborhoods without dramatically impacting the area’s people. Do something with these latch key kids whose parent or parents are mis-educated low-wage workers about to be displaced. It is hypocritical, no, sacrilegious, to attempt to teach the Gospel and not live it!