By Alon Harnoy, Esq. and Emily Collins, Intern
The future of the food industry…
It all began with Amazon Go, the first experimental cashier-less grocery store. This was when the threat to the future of grocery store jobs first surfaced. Little did we know that Amazon had something bigger in mind. Just last month, Amazon announced that it will acquire Whole Foods for $13.7 billion dollars. This will be the retailer’s largest acquisition to date. The implications of this billion dollar acquisition will be far-reaching, effecting more than just the food industry.
Whole Foods is one of the only major supermarkets without a union presence….
The grocery industry is highly unionized; however, Whole Foods happens to be one of the only major union-free supermarkets. It makes sense considering Whole Foods is ranked one of the top places to work due to their above-market wages and generous benefits packages. There have been no plans yet to unionize Whole Food employees, but this new acquisition certainly raises concern for many employees and consumers.
Marc Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial International Union commented on the situation, “Sadly, the hard-working men and women who work at Whole Foods now face an uncertain future because the Amazon model for grocery stores ultimately leads to fewer jobs, worse benefits, and more automation. Make no mistake, these are not the values most Americans believe in nor the ones embraced by many Whole Foods customers.”
When two industries collide…
Many Whole Foods employees are concerned about the effect that automated technology will have on their jobs. The more society advances, the more likely technology, and specifically robots, will threaten human jobs.
A particularly problematic scenario regarding the future of Whole Food jobs is that a cashier involves a highly automated and continuous work pattern flow. Ultimately, this type of automated work is easy for computers to mimic. We have already seen technology decrease the amount of cashiers with self-check-out lines. However, Amazon’s vision could incorporate state of the art technology that makes the checkout process even simpler.
Where will the future of technology take us?
Amazon has extraordinary capabilities to expand the future of technology for the food industry by acquiring Whole Foods. The possibilities of technological advancements are endless and the effects on labor relations in society are puzzling and worrisome. Even members of Congress are concerned and calling for lawmakers to fully scrutinize an acquisition of this magnitude to ensure they fall within the parameter of anti-trust laws. The next question to ask is how consumers will react, how will this affect the everyday shopper, and how will this affect businesses in the food and technology industry?
This article has been featured in Hebrew on Ynet. See the following link for full article: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-5024392,00.html