Last Monday the U.S. celebrated Labor Day, the federal holiday honoring America’s labor movement and the contributions of U.S. workers. On that day a small protest was held outside Cruise’s headquarters in San Francisco — featuring taxi drivers and mass transit workers.

CBS News spoke to Edward Escobar, a Bay Area Uber driver and director of the Alliance for Independent Workers. They report that Escobar orchestrated the protest “to convey their concerns about the potential impact of robotaxis on their jobs.

“There isn’t any dialogue happening. It’s pretty much one-sided. It’s being dictated by the tech titans, Waymo, which is Google, and General Motors, which is Cruise,” Escobar said. “And they’re pretty much dictating the terms, and the California Public Utilities Commission is allowing that to happen.”

Cruise, however, insists that it is taking steps to protect workers through partnerships with local labor unions. In a statement, the company said, “Cruise was proud to sign industry-first jobs agreements with local labor — IBEW Local 6 and SEIU Local 87 — whose workers will install chargers and support our facilities across San Francisco.” Cruise also highlighted its commitment to the community by emphasizing that the construction of a major EV charging facility on Cesar Chavez Street was carried out by 100% Bay Area union labor. It included electricians, carpenters, and ironworkers, representing over 100 jobs.

Despite these efforts, Escobar remains deeply concerned about the future of drivers like himself. “We’re looking at automation, self-driving technology in the new age of AI and looking at permanent displacement of many workers. If you look at transport workers alone in the state of California, UC Berkeley came out with a study, and they said approximately 600,000-plus transport workers in California will be displaced.”

One local newscast shows only a handful of activists in its video from the protest. The local news anchor summarized the protesters’ message as “The robots are taking over and taking your jobs…. [And] making things more dangerous…”

“The people of San Francisco, the workers of San Francisco have to take a stand now,” said Steve Zeltzer with United Front Committee for Labor Party… The group who rallied Monday also said Cruise’s driverless taxis not only violate vehicle codes, but also are not advanced enough to know when to pull over for responding emergency vehicles. Every time they are on the road, they violate the law,” Zeltzer said. The speakers at the Labor Day protest said so-called “robo workers” and artificial intelligence are chipping away at jobs. And before we know it, demonstrators claim, a flood of high-tech human replacements will steal the jobs of the masses.

“We’re talking about millions, if not billions, of people being displaced,” said Edward Escobar with Alliance for Independent Workers. “Not just here locally, but nationally and globally.”

The Verge adds:

GM’s Cruise is “just days away” from regulatory approval to begin mass production of its fully autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals, the company’s CEO, Kyle Vogt, said at an investor conference Thursday

But Vogt may have spoken too soon. “No agency decision to grant or deny the petition submitted by GM has been reached nor has a deadline been set for such a decision,” a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesperson told The Verge.


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