When Tech And Labor Collide Image Credit: Fortune
When Tech And Labor Collide Image Credit: Fortune

When Tech And Labor Collide

As technology pushes deeper into the workplace, some employees are pushing back.

Jonathan Vanian
A FEW YEARS AGO, MARRIOTT debuted a new app at hotels in TECH five cities that was supposed to save housekeepers time by telling them which rooms to clean. It was a disaster.

Housekeepers ended up yo-yoing between rooms on different floors, ignoring messy rooms just down the hall. If anything, the cleaners felt that the app made them less efficient, and they worried about being disciplined by their bosses for failing to finish their work on time. “A wild-goose chase” is how Rachel Gumpert, a spokeswoman for Unite Here, the labor union that represents Marriott’s housekeepers, describes the episode.

Several months after the union became aware of the problems the app was causing, Marriott’s hotel workers went on strike, partly because of new technologies like the housekeeping app. In December, after intense negotiations, the hotel workers won a remarkable concession—a new contract that requires management to tell them 150 days in advance about new technology so they can raise any concerns.

The Marriott agreement highlights how unions are increasingly pushing to protect employees from the unrelenting march of technology into the workplace. Recently, casino workers and even professional basketball players have negotiated contracts that dictate terms like retraining workers who are displaced by technology and limiting how businesses can use data they collect about employees from their devices.

Corporations have said

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