Artificial Intelligence and Labor – What Are Unions Saying

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest topics facing employers right now, with workers in nearly every industry around the world expressing concerns that their jobs could soon be expendable – and unions have taken note, using contract negotiations to include protections against the rapidly growing technology.

IRI Consultants is keeping a close eye on AI in the labor market and has outlined where five of the U.S.’s biggest unions stand when it comes to AI in the workplace, in addition to what employers should be doing now to curb employees’ fears.

Unions’ Stance on Artificial Intelligence

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)

When it comes to AI, AFL-CIO believes1:

  • “…our rights and economic security are at stake. Now more than ever, workers need the collective power of unions.”
  • “Employers are currently deploying increasingly sophisticated AI-enhanced technologies without workers’ consent in order to hire, monitor, evaluate, discipline and even fire workers.”
  • “Without protections, working women and people of color will experience the worst social and economic outcomes of this technology.
  • “In order to protect workers’ job quality, safety and rights, working people must be included in the design, development and implementation of artificial intelligence.”
  • “Labor unions are the most powerful tool workers have to demand inclusion.”
  • “Labor unions do not oppose AI. AI has the potential to unleash prosperity that improves working conditions and lifts us all up. But if left unchecked in the hands of corporate profiteers, AI will increase economic inequality, curtail our rights and undermine our democracy.”


When it comes to AI, the Teamsters believe2:

  • “…that any type of artificial intelligence must be regulated to protect the public by requiring safe operation and meaningfully address what many, including the Teamsters, view as a potentially catastrophic impact on the American workforce.”
  • “Any artificial intelligence in a vehicle, and especially any fully autonomous vehicle technology, is viewed by our members as a direct threat to their job, and a significant threat to public safety.”

Communications Workers of America (CWA) 

When it comes to AI, CWA believes3:

  • “We are the workers who are both building AI platforms and being managed by AI algorithms. We are the end users who know the difference between a software program that enhances worker productivity and creativity and one that threatens our privacy, job security, and quality of worklife with zero accountability.”

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 

When it comes to AI, SEIU believes4:

  • “AI technologies have the potential to disrupt and fundamentally restructure the world of work. Tools such as electronic monitoring and automated management are already pervasive in the labor market. They enable employers to surveil workers, suppress union activity, intensify workloads to the point of injury, and discriminate against women and people of color. These technologies shift power in employer-employee relationships further in favor of employers. This means ever greater control and profits flow to employers, leaving individual workers even more vulnerable to exploitation.”
  • “AI technologies will reshape society, which means this is not just a tech issue but a societal one. Economic and labor policies especially should be baked into AI policymaking.”

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)

When it comes to AI, UFCW believes5:

  • “Our workplaces are rapidly changing and it can be hard to keep up. We’re not against technology – in some cases, it can make workplaces safer or more efficient. But it needs to be used to help workers and communities succeed, not as a way to get rid of good jobs or to make things more difficult.”
  • “Artificial intelligence has been linked to systemic racism and discrimination, cashless technologies can make life hard for the poor and unbanked, and robots can increase the level of danger in warehouses. As our workplace changes, we know that it’s not always for the better. However, as a union, we get a voice in how our workplace adapts for the future.”

What Employers Should Be Doing Right Now

Given everything we know union organizers are saying to workers about AI and how they can protect them, here are some things that you can be doing now to ensure your employees don’t feel like they need protection from a third party.

If you’re looking for support in implementing or responding to concerns about AI, our labor experts at IRI Consultants are available and willing to help. We have a wide range of expertise, especially in using AI to develop effective internal communications to increase employee engagement and satisfaction.

At IRI, we provide training tools and consulting services to help organizations maintain direct communications with their employees to avoid becoming part of the unionization trend. We believe every business is different, and each requires its own holistic and customized approach to communications and employee engagement. Whether you need an internal communications or engagement assessment, guidance in developing your internal communications or engagement strategy or social media strategy, digital media intelligence, crisis communications services, media relations, or media training, we have expert communications and engagement consultants who can quickly provide a specialized solution. Contact us using the chat on the right to discuss the next steps, or give us a call at (313) 965-0350.





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