The Future of Warehouse Work

October 2019

The Future of Warehouse Work

Technological Change in the U.S. Logistics Industry

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A joint report with the UC Berkeley Labor Center, written by Beth Gutelius, PhD, and Nik Theodore, PhD.

In contrast to media narratives about AI and robotics destroying jobs, this report shows that we should be much more concerned about the impacts of technology on the quality of warehouse jobs — particularly for workers of color.

Key Findings

  • Rather than widespread job loss, the more likely impacts of technology will be on job quality: pressure to work harder and faster, under greater surveillance, and with new workplace health and safety hazards to navigate.
  • Wages and job security are likely to get worse as jobs are de-skilled and humans are forced into monotonous tasks dictated by opaque algorithms.
  • These trends are largely driven by Amazon’s constant demand for speed, putting the rest of the industry under huge pressure to adopt risky tech or force workers to work faster.
  • These impacts will disproportionately hit communities of color, since young, male, Latinx & Black workers are over-represented in the warehouse industry, and the industry is geographically concentrated in a few parts of the country.

This report is part of a larger, multi-industry project generously supported by the Ford Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Open Society Foundations.

Read the full report