Perrone Warns of Retail Automation,
Rosenblum Cites Positive Innovations
During 2018 Conference in Las Vegas

The president of North America’s largest private-sector labor union sounded a call to action for attendees of the 2018 Food & Drug Conference on Dec. 10, warning of massive unemployment in the years ahead unless the current trend toward automation is curtailed or mitigated.

Marc Perrone, leader of the 1.4 million-member United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, said the retail food and drug industries are already feeling the effects of artificial intelligence and other technologies. He pointed to the development of stores without checkers, deliveries using driverless cars and robots replacing stockers at stores and warehouses.

Perrone told his FDC audience at Caesars Las Vegas that these changes are primarily driven to increase corporate profits by reducing labor costs.

Possible solutions, he said, might include laws requiring employers to continue paying payroll taxes for jobs that are eliminated through automation.

A more upbeat assessment came from Craig Rosenblum, senior director for Enterprise Retail and a renowned analyst of trends in the retail industry. He concluded his descriptions of changing consumer tastes by pointing to two new immersive shopping locations in China. Customers at these stores use technology to learn about their food and drinks, customize their preparation and even consume them on site.

While automation is evident at these locations, overall employment is higher than at traditional stores, Rosenblum said.

The prestigious lineup of speakers at the 2018 Food & Drug Conference also included Mario Moussa,Ph.D, a successful author, keynote speaker and consultant who teaches in the Executive Programs at the Wharton School of Business.

In Moussa’s presentation on “The Art of Woo,” he outlined the dynamics of social structures and the key roles of empathy, storytelling and other factors in effective leadership. He then connected his observations to the lives and words of great achievers in human history.

The 2018 Food & Drug Conference concluded with a heartfelt presentation by Avish Parashar, whose topic was “Ding Happens: How to Deal With Change in an Ever Changing World.”

After introducing his FDC audience to secrets of nimble thinking acquired in his years as an improv comic, he leavened his humor with constructive advice on using “Yes, and…” as opposed to “Yes, but…” in order to transcend the barriers hindering collaboration and success.

Emceeing the Conference was Ellen Anreder, director of the FDC and CEO of Bleiweiss Communications Inc., an all-union firm that works with labor organizations and benefit funds from coast to coast.

The next Food & Drug Conference is set for Monday, Dec. 16, 2019 at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.