Outsourcing: Dehumanized!

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Robots Replacing Workers in the Food Industry
Submitted by Tara Lohan on Fri, 2012-08-24 09:18


Right now, the food industry employs roughly 12% of the U.S. work force.  This includes jobs in agriculture, food and beverage product manufacture, and food and beverage service.  Many of these jobs, of course, are minimum wage.

But reading Sunday’s New York Times  [1]makes me wonder how many of these and better jobs will be replaced by robots, and much sooner than I had imagined.

The falling costs and growing sophistication of robots have touched off a renewed debate among economists and technologists over how quickly jobs will be lost…the advent of low-cost automation foretells changes on the scale of the revolution in agricultural technology over the last century, when farming employment in the United States fell from 40 percent of the work force to about 2 percent today.

…And at Earthbound Farms in California, four newly installed robot arms with customized suction cups swiftly place clamshell containers of organic lettuce into shipping boxes. The robots move far faster than the people they replaced. Each robot replaces two to five workers at Earthbound, according to John Dulchinos, an engineer who is the chief executive at Adept Technology, a robot maker based in Pleasanton, Calif., that developed Earthbound’s system.

From the standpoint of industry, once the price of robots drops sufficiently their advantages far outweigh their stupidity.

Robots don’t call in sick, get pregnant, get into fights, have affairs with fellow workers, ask for raises, or threaten to go on strike.

What will it be like to live in a society in which vast segments of food production and service are replaced by robots?

Back to the farm, anyone?
Source(s): Food Politics [6]
Author(s):  Marion Nestle [7]
Date: Friday, August 24, 2012 – 09:16
External URL:  http://www.foodpolitics.com [8]
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Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/hot-news-views/robots-replacing-workers-food-industry

Links:
[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/business/new-wave-of-adept-robots-is-changing-global-industry.html?_r=1&hp

The Dark Side of Reforestation Programs: Planting 7,000 Trees a Day in Brutal Conditions | | AlterNet

The Dark Side of Reforestation Programs: Planting 7,000 Trees a Day in Brutal Conditions | | AlterNet.


The Dark Side of Reforestation Programs: Planting 7,000 Trees a Day in Brutal Conditions

“78 Days,” a compelling documentary by Canadian filmmaker and former tree planter Jason Nardella,
Reforestation and tree planting is a tricky topic for many environmentalists. Every year, several billion trees are harvested for fuel, construction and paper products. While alternative products like hemp and bamboo can solve part of the problem, as can recycling paper products, curbing the effects of the behemoth logging industry takes time and resources. For ordinary people concerned about deforestation, it doesn’t take much to buy some carbon offset credits or a voucher to replace a tree or two. But it takes an extraordinary amount of resources to actually plant and nurture all those new trees. And behind the scenes of every good faith voucher purchase is a whole other industry focused on regrowth — not always with optimal results that actually reduce CO2 levels.

Some critics also argue that carbon offsets, or taking steps to neutralize our carbon footprint, can be ineffective or even harmful because they are only a short-term solution. Others contend that all carbon emissions are not created equal. Burning fossil fuels simply can’t be compared with biological tree carbon. All of this controversy doesn’t even take into account how carbon offset programs — let alone the simple demand for lumber — could potentially be fueling the grueling work conditions for tree planters.

78 Days, a compelling documentary by Canadian filmmaker and former tree planter Jason Nardella, reveals the dark side of reforestation labor. Nardella focused his lens on a 2008 tree planting crew in remote northern Alberta. Over the course of four short months, the small crew of mostly veteran hardworking planters was tasked with planting an astounding 10 million trees regardless of climate or injury. It wasn’t some sort of unusually intense planting season. On the contrary, these planters toil every summer planting season under such extreme conditions and deadlines.

It’s worth noting that the extreme conditions associated with the tree planting season are documented online if you go searching for planter diaries or warnings about the potential dangers of the job on tree planting job boards. What Nardella depicts isn’t atypical, especially in the remote upper regions of the Canadian wilderness. (Read Full Article)

This Labor Day we need protest marches rather than parades – CSMonitor.com

This Labor Day we need protest marches rather than parades – CSMonitor.com.


This Labor Day we need protest marches rather than parades

It’s been the worst decade for American workers in a century. That hardly calls for a celebration.

Verizon worker Steven Simard, of Danvers, Mass., holds a placard and chants slogans from a picket line outside a Verizon office, in Boston. Conditions for American workers warrant protests rather than picnics.

Steven Senne/AP/File


By Robert ReichGuest blogger / August 25, 2011

Labor Day is traditionally a time for picnics and parades. But this year is no picnic for American workers, and a protest march would be more appropriate than a parade.

Robert ReichRobert is chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton. He has written 13 books, including ‘The Work of Nations,’ ‘Locked in the Cabinet,’ and his most recent book, ‘Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future.’ His ‘Marketplace’ commentaries can be found on publicradio.com and iTunes.

Not only are 25 million unemployed or underemployed, but American companies continue to cut wages and benefits. The median wage is still dropping, adjusted for inflation. High unemployment has given employers extra bargaining leverage to wring out wage concessions.

All told, it’s been the worst decade for American workers in a century. According to Commerce Department data, private-sector wage gains over the last decade have even lagged behind wage gains during the decade of the Great Depression (4 percent over the last ten years, adjusted for inflation, versus 5 percent from 1929 to 1939).   (Read more)

More than 100 million kids worldwide work in hazardous jobs – CNN.com

More than 100 million kids worldwide work in hazardous jobs – CNN.com.

 

More than 100 million kids worldwide work in hazardous jobs

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 10, 2011 11:40 p.m. EDT
An estimated 115 million children worldwide work in hazardous jobs, says a U.N. agency.
An estimated 115 million children worldwide work in hazardous jobs, says a U.N. agency.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Children are employed in everything from mining to manufacturing
  • The number of kids between the ages of 15 and 17 in hazardous work rose in 2004-2008
  • The problem of children in dangerous jobs is not limited to developing countries
RELATED TOPICS

(CNN) — Every minute of every day, a child laborer somewhere in the world suffers a work-related accident, illness or trauma, the International Labor Organization said Friday.

An estimated 115 million children worldwide work in hazardous jobs, said the U.N. agency in a report issued ahead of the World Day Against Child Labor on Sunday.

That figure represents more than half of the world’s roughly 215 million child laborers, who work in everything from mining and construction to agriculture and manufacturing, the study showed.

“Despite important progress over the last decade, the number of children in child labor worldwide — and particularly in hazardous work — remains high,” ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said in a statement. “Tackling work that jeopardizes the safety, health or morals of children must be a common and urgent priority.”

The study showed that although the overall number of children in hazardous work fell between 2004 and 2008, the number of children between the ages of 15 and 17 engaged in that type of work actually increased 20% during the same period.

Children have higher rates of injury and death at work, as compared to adults, and can be particularly vulnerable as their bodies and minds are still developing.

The largest number of children in hazardous jobs is in Asia and the Pacific, the report said, where children in that type of work represent 5.6% of all kids. Asia is followed by Latin America and the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa, where 6.7% and 15.1% of all children, respectively, have perilous jobs, the ILO said.

Still, the U.N. agency stressed the problem of children in dangerous work is not limited to developing nations.

Its report cited a 2010 Human Rights Watch study, which looked at the issue of child labor in U.S. agriculture.

“(When I was 12) they gave me my first knife. Week after week I was cutting myself. Every week I had a new scar. My hands have a lot of stories,” Jose M., 17, told researchers.

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