A 1987 report from the federal Office of Technology Assessment recognized the potential for employers to misuse and abuse new technologies resulting in adverse effects for workers, but recommended a “wait and see” approach due to lack of data to justify regulation. This blog post reviews decades of research since publication of the report that finds electronic performance monitoring (EPM) systems do increase worker stress and cause other harms.
Future of Work & Workers
Lisa Kresge is a research and policy associate in the Low-Wage Work program at the Labor Center, where she studies the intersection of technological change, low-wage work, and inequality. Her research focuses on data collection and algorithmic technologies in the workplace. Lisa has also conducted research on tax policy as it relates to new technologies and technology companies as well as collective bargaining strategies in response to technological change. Prior to joining the Labor Center, Lisa conducted research on farmworker health, housing, and working conditions at the California Institute for Rural Studies. She has a multidisciplinary background in the social sciences, including a dual undergraduate degree in anthropology and sociology and a master’s degree in community development from UC Davis. Lisa is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in economic geography at UC Davis.
We provide an overview of existing research that attempts to measure the prevalence of employers’ use of workplace management technologies – i.e., technologies that are used to monitor, evaluate, or make predictions about workers, or assist or augment their tasks.
General Comments by the UC Berkeley Labor Center on the OSTP Bill of Rights for an Automated Society Initiative
The UC Berkeley Labor Center’s Technology and Work program provided input to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) initiative on developing a Bill of Rights for an Automated Society.
This groundbreaking report provides a new and comprehensive set of policy principles for worker technology rights in the United States.
This paper offers a framework for understanding the broad range of data collection strategies and algorithmic systems currently in use or being developed for the workplace. It describes key technologies and how they operate, the context in which they evolved, and their potential applications in the workplace.
Productivity scores give the impression that they are objective and impartial and can be trusted because they are technologically derived – but are they? How the proprietary systems arrive at their scores is often as unclear to managers as it is to workers, says Kresge.
Amazon warehouse workers have criticized management’s use of technology to closely monitor their productivity. They could look to past examples of unions addressing similar concerns, says UC Berkeley researcher Lisa Kresge.
“Basically, these are largely untested technologies with virtually no oversight,” said Lisa Kresge, research and policy associate at the University of California, Berkeley Labor Center, who studies the intersection of technological change and inequality. “That’s unprecedented in the workplace.”
Annette Bernhardt, Lisa Kresge, and Reem Suleiman of the UC Berkeley Labor Center argue that companies should be required to reveal “which activities will be monitored, the method of monitoring, the data that will be gathered, the times and places where the monitoring will occur, and the purpose for monitoring and why it is necessary.”
“The lesson of self-checkout is that all this technology still requires a substantial amount of human labor to back up these systems,” said Lisa Kresge, research and policy associate at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.