Brown Introduces Legislation to Empower Workers in the Face of Increased Automation

Brown’s Bill Ensures Workers Receive Advanced Notice, Increased Training when Companies Decide to Adopt New Technology; Brown Met with Local Ohioans During Statewide Tour to Discuss His Legislation, Ways to Support Workers as Companies Turn to Automation

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced legislation to provide critical resources to workers when companies decide to adopt new technology that will affect their jobs. Last week, Brown wrapped up a statewide tour with stops in Akron, Lima, Mansfield, St. Clairsville, Youngstown and Toledo to talk to Ohioans across the state about his bill and ways to support workers in the face of increased automation.

“No matter how technology changes, Ohio workers will always be our greatest resource,” said Brown. “But right now, too many workers are left behind when companies decide to adopt new technology. We must work to ensure that workers aren’t treated as a cost to be minimized but rather treated with the dignity they’ve earned to have an equal say in how best to implement new technology in the workplace.”

Brown was joined on a conference call today by Tim Burga, President of the Ohio AFL-CIO, to discuss Brown’s bill and the importance of empowering Ohio workers.

“Ohio workers are the best in the world at what they do. Senator Brown recognizes the ability of Ohio’s workforce to meet any challenge and his bill requires companies to do the same. Workers drive the success of our economy, and with a seat at the table, they will look out for the interests of working families rather than the interests of Wall Street that continue to leave workers and families behind,” said President Burga.  

Brown’s Workers’ Right to Training Act will benefit workers by requiring companies to provide advance notice of any technology changes that may affect workers’ jobs and provide training to these workers in advance of adopting the new technology.

Specifically, Brown’s bill would:

  • Require companies to provide 180 days advanced notice to workers when new technology will change employment positions and provide 270 days advanced notice if jobs will be eliminated. Employers must bargain directly with employees on how best to implement new technology.
  • Require employers to pay for and provide on-the-job training to any employees who will be affected by the introduction of new technology. Companies must either provide training to employees whose jobs will change as a result of new technology or to employees who will lose their job to help these workers obtain a different position at a similar company. 
  • Require employers to provide six-month severance to all workers who lose their jobs as a result of new technology.

By mandating employers consult and compensate employees whose jobs are changed or lost due to technology, the Workers’ Right to Training Act will ensure the adoption of technology in the workplace will be done in a just way for workers.  By helping workers affected by technology to receive the training they need, the bill will also help to ensure the U.S. workforce remains high-skilled and capable of competing in a global economy. 

Read what Ohio media outlets are saying about Brown’s bill:

Ironton Tribune: Focus on Workers’ Interests (9/7/2019)

“While companies should have the right to adapt when the economy demands it, the human costs of these changes should never be taken lightly when business leaders make such calculations.

“One person’s idea of savings can mean the livelihood of a family.

“We are glad that Brown is starting a discussion with this legislation to get these issues addresses so that workers are not left behind.”

Toledo Blade: Automation Puts Toledo Jobs at Risk, but Sherrod Brown Has a Plan to Help Workers (9/6/2019)

“Like most federal lawmakers, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D, Ohio) has spent his summer recess crisscrossing his home state, pitching a very on-brand piece of legislation for a senator who frequently evokes the “dignity of work” — a bill designed to mitigate the impact of increasing automation in manufacturing.

“In Toledo, he found a receptive audience well attuned to the threat posed by robots replacing workers who have spent generations building things.

‘“There was a report not too long ago that ranked Toledo as a city in the country most susceptible and most in danger to the changes that automation brings, so it’s a concern for our community, and it’s a concern borne by our proud 180-year history as a city that’s not afraid of hard work,” Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said Friday, introducing Mr. Brown at the UAW Local 12 Hall.”

Warren Tribune Chronicle: Sen. Brown Touts Workers Legislation (9/6/2019)

“Bill Padisak, president of the Mahoning Trumbull AFL-CIO and a roundtable participant, said, “Thousands and thousands of workers have lost jobs through automation. This bill is a great idea. It will help so many people who have lost jobs.”

“Brown said many companies “see labor as just another cost. As they develop new technologies, we want to make sure that workers are taken into account.”’

Lima News: Brown Holds Automation Roundtable (8/30/19)

“Anticipating widespread disruption from autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies that could eliminate thousands of jobs, US. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is introducing legislation that would require companies to warn and retrain workers whose jobs are changed or lost by new technologies.”

WFMD Mansfield: Senator Sherrod Brown Hosts Roundtable in Mansfield (9/3/2019)

“Brown was joined at the roundtable by local labor unions and worker advocates, including Norm Shoemaker, President of the Mid Ohio Area Labor council. Norm said, "Mid Ohio Area Labor Council supports Senator Sherrod Brown and is honored to sit down along with local labor leaders and discuss Senator Brown's new legislation to protect employees' jobs. Advancement in technology helps improve working conditions and efficiency, this is very important to the workforce, so is retaining employment.”’

The Times Leader: Brown: Retrain workers for automated jobs (9/5/2019)

“During the meeting, several people pointed out examples such as drones used instead of line workers to inspect power lines and transformers, driverless vehicles, and fewer steelworkers required to make steel. Others noted many workers cannot afford to seek additional schooling or training while maintaining their jobs.

“Many shared personal stories prior to the meeting.

‘“We know firsthand. I was employed in the utility industry for 38 years. We know the challenges technology brings, whether it’s good or bad,” Ed Good, representing the Upper Ohio Valley Central Labor Council, said. He added while there are many benefits to technological advancement, there is often a human cost, and he commended any assistance for those who have been adversely impacted.”

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