LAS VEGAS — Today, the AFL-CIO, the AFL-CIO Technology Institute and SAG-AFTRA co-hosted their fifth annual Labor Innovation & Technology Summit. Across two days, the Summit convenes movement leaders and working people to discuss and develop strategies to ensure ethical technology adoption and center workers at the heart of emerging technologies.
The Summit coincided with CES 2024 in Las Vegas—one of the world’s largest tech trade shows. As corporate CEOs unveiled AI-powered tech, labor and civil rights leaders, technology experts, and government officials tackled broader strategies at the Summit to ensure the values and well-being of working people direct the development and implementation of these emerging technologies.
Through strikes, negotiations and labor-management partnership in 2023, unions solidified our powerful role in mediating the potential harms of technology like artificial intelligence (AI) while ensuring workers benefit from its capacity to provide support and assist creatively.
“In 2023, the labor movement demonstrated its capacity to confront corporate greed and champion responsible technology implementation across various industries. As CES unveils the latest gadgets, the Labor Innovation & Technology Summit reveals what really makes technology valuable—the humans behind it,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. “We cannot fulfill the potential of innovation without the voices and values of working people. Whether organizing the tech industry, developing tech itself or shaping the workforce of the future, the labor movement will continue to lead the way toward accountable and equitable innovation.”
“When SAG-AFTRA co-founded this summit 6 years ago, it was to ensure that technology and innovation across sectors centered working people in the conversation around ethical and responsible adoption of technology. These are vital conversations to have as A.I. technology impacts human life in the coming decade. Big corporations work proactively to foresee all the ways technology can be exploited to increase their profit and power. The labor movement must be equally proactive in driving the discourse around tech’s implications for people in the workforce. Technology can be implemented in ways that make people’s lives better, or it can further increase the wealth of the already extremely wealthy. The LIT Summit is where we can explore what kind of future we need and how we’re going to get there,” said SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.
Last year, fears around AI dominated the minds of America’s workers while public support for unions rose to near-record highs. Leveraging the momentum of major union victories—from increased wages to technological protections and labor partnerships with AI developers—unions are prepared to lead in 2024 as the countervailing force against corporate interests that for too long dictated the direction of technology and its impact on America’s workforce.
The Summit boasted a historic level of union sponsorship from 11 additional unions across diverse industries: AFGE; AFSCME; the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA); the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU); the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE); National Nurses United (NNU); the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD); the Transport Workers Union (TWU); the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA); and UNITE HERE.
Other notable guests at the Summit included:
- Julie Su, Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor;
- Maya Wiley, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights;
- Janet Haven, Executive Director of Data & Society;
- Matt Scherer, Senior Policy Counsel for Workers’ Rights and Technology at the Center for Democracy and Technology; and
- Jodi Forlizzi, Herbert A. Simon Professor in Computer Science and HCII, and the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University.
At the Labor Innovation & Technology Summit, labor leaders spoke to the unique role unions play within a new era of AI and outlined strategies for continued collective victories to ensure working people reap the gains of technological innovation.
The Summit spanned Tuesday, Jan. 9, to Wednesday, Jan. 10, with Tuesday’s programming open to the public both in-person and via livestream.
On Tuesday, panelists discussed lessons from hard-won labor victories, collective bargaining strategies, and technological impacts on workers and society. On Wednesday, labor leaders participated in collaborative breakout sessions to identify shared strategies across industries to empower workers in a tech-driven future:
“Educators, public employees, and healthcare professionals help people build better lives, make our economy stronger, and sustain a vibrant and functional democracy,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “We’re also on the front lines of preparing the next generation, helping them gain the skills they need to get jobs. That’s why harnessing new technologies, including advocating for its fair and transparent use, and ensuring workers’ rights and dignity are maintained in an increasingly automated and digitized work environment is part of our DNA. The Labor Innovation & Technology Summit is an important opportunity for unions and our other partners to discuss ethical approaches to emerging technologies in our workplace and our society. Working folks are the ones leading us through this work, and our voices must be part of the conversation.”
“We are at a technological crossroads with the rights and economic security of workers at risk. At the Amalgamated Transit Union, the LIT summit is important because technology and AI impact our members’ lives. Transit workers keep our towns and cities moving. In a world where technology and automation seem to advance at an unprecedented pace, we remain the irreplaceable human touch. We’re the eyes and ears of our communities. We’re here to say we won’t be left behind. Together we can ensure AI benefits workers and the people we serve. Our voices matter,” said ATU International President John Costa.
“Technology’s rapid evolution is changing every part of the economy and workplace—creating new challenges and opportunities for workers across the country,” said AFGE National President Everett Kelley. “That’s why it is so important we take advantage of events like this summit to come together, share information and strategies, and set a course that will ensure working people get their fair share of the prosperity created by the new technologies.”
“Given the timing and rapid deployment of artificial intelligence in the entertainment industry, the Labor Innovation and Technology Summit (LIT) and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) may be the most important technology trade shows we’ve ever attended. We’re proud to cosponsor the event, continue collaborating with our allies as well as identifying emerging technologies which could threaten IATSE sisters, brothers, and kins’ livelihoods,” said International President Matthew D. Loeb of IATSE.
“Nurses are all for tech that enhances quality of patient care but we will never be silent as our employers try to automate what we do for our patients—who all deserve expert, hands-on care and human compassion,” said NNU President Jean Ross, RN. “We know that, through collective action and labor solidarity, workers have the power to determine how AI and tech shows up in our economy and in our professions. We’re feeling empowered and energized after this week’s movement-wide discussion on how workers can win in the face of tech and AI.”
“Technological change has always been a hallmark of the transportation sector and it always will be. But the pace of technological change we are seeing today is unparalleled in human history, and requires a labor movement that can equally adapt,” said AFL-CIO TTD Chief of Staff Matthew Colvin, who was recently selected to serve on the Department of Transportation’s Transforming Transportation Advisory Committee to help shape a federal approach to innovation in transportation sectors. “The Labor Innovation & Technology Summit is an opportunity for us to do exactly that and to remind tech companies that unions expect to be partners in innovation. By centering the voices of workers in the heart of the conversation about innovation and technology, we can guarantee that we are not bystanders to that change. Harnessing workers’ expertise is the only way to ensure that technological advancements enhance safety, efficiency, and the overall success of our transportation systems.”
“Organized labor is the only real bulwark that working men and women have as this torrent of new technology races towards us. It’s absolutely critical that unions come together to share information and strategize on how to protect our members’ ability to earn a living and take care of their families. No one else is going to do it, certainly not disingenuous profit mongers seeking to make obscene profits by developing ways for companies to reduce, or completely eliminate, headcount. It’s up to the labor movement,” said TWU International President John Samuelsen.
“With corporations clamoring to use AI and other technology to either automate away jobs or shift the work onto consumers, it’s up to the labor movement to ensure workers have a seat at the table so that technology improves lives for workers and the public,” said UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor. “This last year UNITE HERE is proud to be one of the unions that led the way in securing new labor contracts with the strongest language on technology protections to date. This year’s Summit will continue the conversation for how we can keep winning around innovation for working-class people everywhere.”
About the Labor Innovation & Technology Summit
Co-founded by SAG-AFTRA, the AFL-CIO and the AFL-CIO Tech Institute, the Labor Innovation & Technology Summit brings together leaders from across the labor movement, entertainment sector and technology space to discuss what innovation means for the future of workers. The Summit centers working people in conversations about innovation and technology change while focusing on worker advocacy, policies and programs that ensure working people thrive alongside innovation. From information and education to labor-management collaboration and training initiatives, the Summit shines a light on the people driving change and progress. This year’s program is co-sponsored by AFGE, AFSCME, AFT, ALPA, ATU, IATSE, NNU, TTD, TWU, UA and UNITE HERE.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) works tirelessly to improve the lives of working people. We are the democratic, voluntary federation of 60 national and international labor unions that represent 12.5 million working people.
SAG-AFTRA represents approximately 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists, influencers, and other entertainment and media professionals. SAG-AFTRA members are the faces and voices that entertain and inform America and the world. A proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO, SAG-AFTRA has national offices in Los Angeles and New York and local offices nationwide representing members working together to secure the strongest protections for entertainment and media artists in the 21st century and beyond. Visit sagaftra.org or find us on social (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter).