The Emma Coalition – Addressing Technology-Induced Displacement of Employees

ai replacing jobs

Concern that the rise of Artificial Intelligence will eliminate jobs isn’t just techno-fear talking - Technology-Induced Displacement of Employees, or TIDE, is real, it's happening right now, and it's projected to continue well into the future. Happily, the phenomenon of ai taking over jobs is something that we can prepare for. On this episode of ProjectHR, Michael Lotito, a Shareholder with Littler Mendelson, the co-chair of Littler's Workplace Policy Institute and the co-founder of The Emma Coalition shares his perspective on how we can best position ourselves for the current and coming TIDE. He will explain:

  • The impacts of TIDE (as well as newcomer VIDE);
  • The TIDE "Tipping Point";
  • What jobs are most and least vulnerable to TIDE; and
  • How to prepare future displaced workers for maximum success!
jobs lost to automation

Michael Lotito

   Founder & CEO,     The Emma Coalition

“I believe that we have a moral obligation, a societal obligation, an economic obligation in order to make sure that the workforce of the future gives those individuals who are in school today the opportunities and the kind of life that I did.”


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What is TIDE?

  • TIDE is Technology-Induced Displacement of Employees.
  • We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution - the digital revolution - and the change is much more abrupt than the changes in previous industrial revolutions.
  • TIDE has been going on for a while - manufacturers will say they’ve been experiencing it for decades. If you go into an automobile plant, you’ll see robotic arms and different mechanized systems that work along with the worker in a “Co-bot” type of situation.
  • The total number of manufacturing jobs in the United States has steadily declined -- this is not automatically a bad thing because some jobs are better done, or more safely done, by AI. The negatives are that jobs have been displaced over time.


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The Impact of VIDE - Virus-Induced Displacement of Employees

  • At the time of this recording, together, TIDE & VIDE have displaced 30-million individuals in a matter of weeks. These are numbers we’ve not seen since the Great Depression.
  • Automation can help in dealing with this pandemic - because they can do jobs that may otherwise endanger human workers.
  • The number of companies scaling up with automation is set to double over the next few years, and the virus is accelerating that.


Are People Viewed As “Our Most Important Asset”?

  • Workers are carried on a balance sheet as an expense -- how much do they cost -- whereas robots are considered a capital investment. Robots are not carried as a cost on the balance sheet, we depreciate it! 
  • Economically, you can see why all these different factors coming together are adding to the TIDE tipping point. 

The TIDE Tipping Point

Job Vulnerability to TIDE

  • Most vulnerable to TIDE: Lower-level positions that are repetitive, in nature. This applies to typically blue-collar positions as well as office jobs.
  • Most resistant to TIDE: Higher-end jobs that involve human skills that are difficult to displace with robotics, also known as the “Three C’s”: 
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity

Socio-Economic Impacts of TIDE

  • TIDE may exacerbate inequalities already in place.
  • A lot of at-risk jobs, such as restaurant work, are commonly people’s first jobs, and without them, people will not get exposure to the skills learned in those first jobs.
  • Some studies have shown that women, stereotypically being better at the Three C’s will be more resistant to the effects of TIDE.
  • TIDE is predicted to impact some areas of the country harder than others, based on the types of jobs available in those areas (see The Emma Coalition website for more information).

Positive Impacts of AI

  • Non-human workers can perform actions that would endanger the health and safety of a human worker, thus protecting workers and lowering worker’s comp claims. 
  • New jobs will be created in response to the use of AI. At the end of all of our industrial revolutions, America has always had more jobs coming out than they had going in!
  • Mr. Lotito is optimistic about being in a better place at the end of this transition, but the process of how to get there is the challenge.

Preparing Future Displaced Employees For Success

  • Do a data analysis to identify job skills that are most at-risk and job skills that will be most in demand;
  • For those who are not yet in the workforce: Redesign the K-12 educational system, to start teaching those relevant future skills.
  • For those already in the workforce when TIDE affects them: Create Lifelong Learning Accounts (funded through governments and employer/employee contributions), which enables people to upskill over the course of their entire career, allowing them to better evolve with their jobs.
  • Address the critical questions:
  • How do we engage with Universities and Community Colleges to create the online courses that allow for this upskilling;
  • What are employer obligations to create these skills?
  • What role do union and non-union apprenticeship programs play in creating these skills?

Addressing TIDE Today

  • A few higher-end businesses have been thinking about TIDE for a long time, and already have programs in place to upskill employees and make these workforce transitions in a humane way. Unfortunately these companies are few and far between.
  • One of the casualties of the pandemic is our inability to focus on longer-term issues like TIDE.
  • Washington State enacted legislation that created a special task force that studied the impact of TIDE in their state, They issued a report in December 2019, that serves as a great blueprint and a great best practice for other states to follow. But that task force’s funding expires in June of 2020, and may not be reauthorized as a result of the current health crisis.
  • California announced that they would have a task force, but there’s been very little publicity about it. This was likely done in response to a Little Hoover Commission report, released in 2018, that said California was at an enormous risk for TIDE over the next few decades.
  • The federal government did form a task force with different business leaders and stakeholders, but they were focused more on the immediate skill gaps (prior to COVID-19), rather than taking a long-term look at the future. 
  • The Emma Coalition has sent a letter to the Secretary of Labor, talking about reformulating an already-funded government program - the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WOIA) -  to mandate that states need to undertake a TIDE-related workforce analysis as a condition of accessing WOIA funds. They’ve also suggested the Secretary create a task force to drive this initiative forward. 

The Emma Coalition

  • Emma is Mr. Lotito’s granddaughter - and the coalition is named such because TIDE will deeply impact her generation and her generation’s career choices.
  • The Emma Coalition is a 501(c)(3), supported by Littler and their key partner in this effort, the National Restaurant Association. 
  • The goal is to create a template to the best response to TIDE. 
  • The Emma Coalition is able to connect regulatory, education and business communities by being non-partisan, by being non-profit, by having the support of the largest labor employment law firm in the world and by having the coalition’s key partner be the National Restaurant Association. 
  • “I believe that we have a moral obligation, a societal obligation, an economic obligation in order to make sure that the workforce of the future gives those individuals who are in school today the opportunities and the kind of life that I did.” 

Michael Lotito Backstory

  • B.A. in Political Science from Villanova University 
  • J.D. from Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law 
  • Served as Partner at Jackson Lewis LLP 
  • Mr. Lotito currently serves as Shareholder at Littler Mendelson, he’s also the co-chair of Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute (WPI) and the Founder and CEO of The Emma Coalition.


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