Topics: Advocacy, News, Press

Assembly Committee Supports Regulating Self-Checkout, Protecting Workers and Customers

Sacramento, CA – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council, California Labor Federation and the Prosecutors Alliance of California applauded the Senate Labor Committee for passing SB 1446 (Smallwood-Cuevas), which will protect workers and the public by ensuring safe staffing levels at grocery and drug-retail stores and regulating self-checkout machines. It will also put in place guardrails to prevent worker displacement and harm to workers and the public when retail employers adopt new AI-enabled check-out technology. 

“Our members’ employers have increasingly implemented automated checkout to drastically cut staffing and reduce labor costs,” said John Frahm, president, UFCW Local 5. “Self-checkout, and the subsequent reduction in front-line grocery workers, has created a range of problems for retailers, workers, and the public, including overworked cashiers and an increase in workplace violence and retail theft. The convenience touted in 1986 when self-checkout was introduced does not outweigh worker safety. SB 1446 will protect good jobs and keep workers safe by ensuring there are safe staffing levels for cashiers and regulating self-checkout. We’re proud to sponsor this important legislation.”

In 2011, California passed AB 183 (Ma) in law, which banned the sale of alcohol via self-checkout machines in response to “evidence of inadequate staffing, inconsistent monitoring, and technological failures” at self-checkout that increased illegal purchases of alcohol and harmed public health.1 Since then, self-checkout has rapidly spread in retail grocery and drug stores, with some stores that do not sell alcohol having eliminated checkout staffed by human workers.

“Replacing workers with automated checkout machines has undermined safety for workers and the public. No one feels safe in stores without employees,” said Lorena Gonzalez, Chief Officer of the California Labor Federation, representing 1,300 unions and 2.3 million union members. “In every industry, workers are demanding a say in the use of new technologies to prevent displacement. This bill guarantees safe staffing levels and provides new tools to ensure that technology is not used to destroy good jobs or leave communities without adequate services.”

Self-checkout machines accounted for under 30% of total transactions in 2022, but cost food retailers more than $10 billion in lost profits annually. Nearly 7% of self-checkout transactions have at least some partial shrink compared to 0.32% with cashiers.2 

“Well-staffed stores have more jobs and less shoplifting,” said Cristine DeSoto Berry, the Executive Director of the Prosecutors Alliance of California. “This bill will protect workers, reduce retail theft, and provide a better, safer experience for customers. It’s a win for our communities.” 

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  1. Self-Checkout: Is it Reliable for Selling Alcohol?. Community Economic Development Clinic, UCLA, LAANE. 2009. https://laane.org/research/self-checkout-is-it-reliable/
  2. https://www.producebluebook.com/2023/11/28/study-finds-self-check-has-16x-more-shrink-than-cashier-lanes/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 17, 2024

Contact:

(UFCW) Jenna Thompson, 949.246.1620, [email protected]