On Friday, June 30, senior Biden-Harris Administration officials convened a listening session with leaders and officials from the labor community to discuss the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) for workers, unions, the quality of jobs, and the future of work. Leaders of unions representing diverse sectors of the economy raised concerns about the risks of AI for workers’ jobs, physical and mental health, and privacy and civil rights. They also shared views on possible opportunities for AI to improve workers’ lives when unions and workers are at the table and jointly developing solutions with employers.
The listening session was attended by officials from the White House National Economic Council, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Office of the Vice President. During the session, White House principals emphasized that, while AI has the potential to bring significant benefits, government and employers need to collaborate with unions to fully understand the risks for workers and how to effectively mitigate potential harms.
Participants discussed different ways that AI tools are being deployed in the workplace, as well as the impacts of these tools on job quality. They shared stories, for example, of employers who have used AI tools to track workers’ pace of work and monitor work quality. These uses of AI, union leaders noted, have often introduced inaccuracies and tended to raise workplace stress and worsen mental health. At the same time, leaders shared some instances where AI tools have helped support workers in their jobs, for example, by monitoring and easing the physical toll of some repetitive or dangerous tasks.
The discussion also covered implications of AI for workers’ privacy, civil rights, and autonomy— including from employers’ use of AI to monitor and collect data on workers. Union leaders also agreed that the deployment of AI in the workplace was changing the sets of skills that employers require of their workers and threatening creators’ ownership of their voices, likenesses, and ability to benefit from the intellectual property they help create. Additionally, leaders observed how employers can use AI tools to cut jobs or make work schedules more uncertain. Participants called upon employers and the Administration to ensure that workers retain access to high-quality jobs that prioritize their health and well-being, and that workers participate in decisions about how AI is deployed in the workplace.
Friday’s meeting was part of an ongoing effort by the Administration to engage with advocates, companies, researchers, civil rights organizations, not-for-profit organizations, communities, international partners, and others on critical AI issues. This engagement builds on considerable steps the Administration has taken to date to promote responsible innovation and mitigate the risks from AI. This work includes last week’s meeting with civil society leaders in San Francisco, new investments to power responsible AI research and development, additional actions announced last month, the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights and related executive actions, the AI Risk Management Framework, a Request For Information (RFI) on the impacts of automated surveillance and management technologies on workers, a briefing for unions on the RFI in partnership with AFL-CIO Tech Institute, last month’s listening session with workers (including union workers), and the roadmap for standing up a National AI Research Resource.
- Randi Weingarten, President, AFT
- Sara Steffens, Secretary-Treasurer, CWA
- Amanda Ballantyne, Director, Technology Institute, AFL-CIO
- Jeffrey Bennett, General Counsel, SAG-AFTRA
- Willie Burden, Jr., In-House Counsel, Teamsters
- Jenny Ho, Assistant Director of Research and Collective Bargaining, AFSCME
- Tyler McIntosh, Policy/Legislative Director, IATSE
- Chris Michalakis, Federal Legislative Representative, United Food and Commercial Workers
- Lowell Peterson, Executive Director, WGA East
- Justin Thompson, Senior Policy Analyst, NEA
- Chris Zatratz, Legislative Representative, United Auto Workers
- Arati Prabhakar, Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Celeste Drake, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council
- Deirdre Mulligan, Principal Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer
- Ike Irby, Special Assistant to the President and Chief Climate Advisor to the Vice President
- Elizabeth Kelly, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
- Alex Jacquez, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Development and Industrial Strategy