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Public Employee Press
Letters to the Editor
Robots threaten jobs of black Americans
Google recently purchased Boston Dynamics, a renowned robotics company that has created a number of creatures, including big and little dogs. With my golden retriever, Max, I watched a video of the big dog navigating a pile of cinderblocks and walking through a snow-covered field. When the dog slipped on the ice and tried to get up, Max started barking at him.
Google is also working on a driverless car that can maneuver in traffic, and soon a driverless bus will be invented.
When most of us think about robots, we think of big, expensive, menacing industrial machines. However, a new type of robot called Baxter with a human-looking face has been developed that is not dangerous and can be programmed just by moving its hand through different procedures like picking up an object and dropping it into a box.
Minimum wage workers at the Amazon warehouse run back and forth retrieving merchandise and readying it for shipment. In the near future, they will be replaced in totally robotic warehouses. Amazon is also looking at using drones for same-day deliveries.
Today, computing power has dropped in price dramatically, computers are everywhere and there is more computing power in a midsize car than there was in the module that landed on the moon. IBM's powerful Watson computer beat humans at Jeopardy, and artificial intelligence is accelerating.
Logistics is the movement of material or people from one place to another, involving employees like bus drivers, postal workers and delivery and warehouse workers.
African Americans are disproportionately involved in logistics jobs, which have been good vehicles for advancement into the middle class. My cousins had good jobs as letter carriers and bus drivers, solid jobs that let them put their kids through college, have a house and a middle-class lifestyle.
Unfortunately, many of those jobs are now going away and logistics, which is very labor-intensive, will sometime in the future be run by robots.
In business, you can see the competition between labor and capital as management decides whether it is cheaper to buy a new machine or hire a worker.
Fast-food workers have been demonstrating for higher wages, and the president wants to increase the minimum wage as he is introducing Obamacare. All these make labor more expensive and capital right now is cheap. Baxter costs just $22,000, similar to one minimum-wage worker. Robots don't get sick, they don't strike, and they show up on Mondays and Fridays.
Nobody in Washington seems to have the foresight to deal with this coming disaster.
— Paul F. Renda
Take back our schools
It is certainly nice to see your review of Diane Ravitch's book about the charter school scam. You are absolutely correct that charter schools are a business that Mayor Bloomberg tried to use to turn public education into a business.
I do hope our new mayor means what he says about helping all our schools, not just charters. As Ravitch said, parents have been misled to believe that the public schools are in crisis because of teachers and unions.
My question is how come people like charter school executive Eva Moskowitz gets the huge salary she does while we don't have enough teachers and paras to make smaller class sizes for children who need extra attention?
It is time to take back our schools and for the parents to have more input.
— Phyllis Levy
Thanks on PEP story
I am most grateful for your "Changing Lives" article in the December 2013 Public Employee Press, in which three alumnae of our Bachelor of Arts program celebrate their educational experience at the DC 37 Campus of the College of New Rochelle.
A number of members have told me how moved they were when they read each alumna's story. The author, Alfredo Alvarado, captured these life stories in a heartfelt fashion that gives voice to the experience of many of our students, both former and current, who face comparable challenges and can move forward and complete their B.A. at the union college.
Each alumna praises the supportive learning environment and high quality of teaching they experienced here, and each describes how completing their B.A. opened the door to significant employment and educational opportunities. We hope that seeing the success of their colleagues in articles like "Changing Lives" will encourage members to enroll and pursue their own educational advancement.
— Stephen Greenfeld, Ph.D.