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Robot Baristas and AI Chefs Cause Concern at CES 2024 as Casino Union Workers Fear Job Loss

The annual CES technology trade show in Las Vegas showcased a range of robots, including robot baristas and AI chefs, that left casino union workers worried about the future of their jobs.

The introduction of these innovative technologies has raised concerns about the impact of artificial intelligence on the hospitality industry.

Roman Alejo, a 34-year-old barista at the Sahara hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip, expressed his apprehension, stating, "A lot of AI is coming into this world. It is very scary and very eye-opening to see how humans can think of replacing other humans."

The concerns of casino workers were brought to the forefront just a month after the ratification of new contracts for 40,000 members of the casino workers union in Las Vegas. The negotiations highlighted the threat of AI to union jobs, with technology being a key issue.

Ted Pappageorge, the Culinary Workers Union's secretary-treasurer, emphasised the significance of technology in the negotiations, stating, "Technology was a strike issue and one of the very last issues to be resolved." The union recognised the need for stronger job protection against advancements in technology, such as self check-in stations, automated valet ticket services, and robot bartenders.

The emergence of robotics in the hospitality and service industry has prompted labor unions to reconsider their negotiation strategies. Bill Werner, an associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, explained that unions now need to be more deliberate in securing job security.

The potential impact on casino union jobs is significant, with the Culinary Union's contract set to expire in five years. Werner questioned the fate of these workers, asking, "What is going to happen to these people, and what rights do they have? And what happens to them if they lose their job to a robot?"

To address these concerns, the union included provisions in its latest contract to protect workers. This includes severance pay of $2,000 per year worked if a job is eliminated due to technology or AI, as well as the option to transfer to a different department within the company.

The trade show provided an opportunity for over 100 union members to explore emerging technologies that could further jeopardise casino jobs. The exhibition featured various robots, including delivery robots, robotic masseuses, and AI-powered smart grills. The prospect of "autonomous restaurants" was also showcased, hinting at a future where robots take on the role of chefs.

While some argue that these technologies can help address labor shortages and improve efficiency, others, like Werner, believe that certain casino union jobs are at risk. Positions that don't require direct customer interaction, such as housekeeping and food preparation, are particularly vulnerable to automation.

Despite the concerns, the hospitality industry acknowledges the need to adapt to technological advancements. Roman Alejo, the barista, acknowledged the incredible innovations but expressed his fear that everything seems to revolve around technology in today's world.

  • Robot baristas and AI chefs showcased at CES 2024 raise concerns among casino union workers.

  • Technology was a key issue in recent contract negotiations for the casino workers union in Las Vegas.

  • The Culinary Union included provisions in its latest contract to protect workers from job loss due to technology or AI.

Source: AP NEWS

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