Scott Remarks at Roundtable on Automation and its Impact on Workers of Color

“Welcome, everyone, to our first roundtable exploring the disparate impact of automation and artificial intelligence on workers of color.  I want to thank Spencer Overton, from the Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies, for his leadership in highlighting how workers of color will be disproportionately impacted by automation.

“This roundtable will explore the transportation sector and autonomous vehicles.  We plan to host additional roundtables examining other sectors such as retail, healthcare, and manufacturing.

“A new class of automation and artificial intelligence technologies are rapidly emerging.  They hold the promise of transforming our lives for the better – by spurring economic growth and by helping to solve our most pressing problems.  But they will also disrupt our economy, potentially displacing millions of workers.  This is not a new concern.  After all, the planning committee of the March for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 cautioned that people of color “are the first victims of automation” due to discrimination in education, apprenticeship training, and specialized training.

“Studies show the workers expected to be hardest hit by job losses due to automation are those who can least afford it.  An Obama White House study found that ‘the jobs that are threatened by automation are highly concentrated among lower-paid, lower-skilled, and less-educated workers.’  This will exacerbate our income inequality, which is already too high.

“The emergence of autonomous vehicles could place nearly 3.8 million jobs at risk.  These jobs are held by workers who make their living driving trucks, taxis, and buses.  A recent Joint Center study found these occupations are disproportionately held by people of color.  If people don’t believe that automation is going to replace jobs, you can just remember the last time you went to the airport and checked yourself in and how few agents there were behind the desk.  

“When was the last time you went to the bank and spoke to a bank teller? You used to go to the bank once a week to cash your paycheck once a week. Most people haven’t seen the inside of a bank in the better part of a year.

“We need to devise evidence-based policies to facilitate the transition to Artificial Intelligence technologies, as well as address the ensuing displacement of workers and other minuses.  This roundtable series will explore a variety of issues that can help provide that direction.

“I look forward to hearing from our panel of experts.  Now I’ll turn it over to our moderator Spencer Overton.”

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