HUMANS vs ROBOTS
Our community’s fight for everyone’s quality of life.
Part 1 — Introduction and Background
My name is Vivian Malauulu and I am a wife, mother, laborer, and very involved resident of the Harbor Area in Los Angeles.
My husband, George, and I have been married for almost 21 years. Together we have four children between the ages of 18 and 10. Our family lives in the Wrigley neighborhood on the west side of Long Beach and our kids attend local area schools and play sports through our local parks. We are still active members of the church where we were married, and we participate and volunteer in various civic groups in the LBC and beyond.
George and I are both college educated, former public high school teachers, who are now longshore workers at the ports near our home. For the past two decades, we have worked on the docks manning a variety of jobs in cargo movement. In that time, we have experienced many changes on the waterfront, most of which have been the result of mechanization and automation.
Part 2 — Mechanization vs Automation
The difference between mechanization and automation is significant.
Mechanization is the use of machines by humans to perform work. It replaces human power with mechanical power by saving human muscle and reducing the bodily impact of physical labor.
Automation is the use of computers to completely replace humans. It substitutes human judgment with robotic processes by using programmable software to perform the mental aspect of work.
In mechanization, men and women control the machines and use them to be productive. Workers use critical thinking skills to determine the feasibility, logistics, and safety of an operation. A worker can quickly anticipate and identify a problem, then quickly work to resolve it.
In automation, men and women are replaced by artificial intelligence that manipulates production. Manpower is absent and human thinking is minimized. Delays in production are caused by malfunctioning computers, power failures, and the waiting for their respective repairs.
Part 3 — The Maritime Industry
The industrialization of the maritime industry happened before our time, but it continues to create the commerce that enriches our communities every day. Thousands of jobs both on and off the docks are supported by longshoring. In fact, 1 in 8 jobs in this country is directly connected to the docks.
Seaports are vital economic engines in this country and their sustainability is crucial to our nation’s financial welfare. According to the American Association of Port Authorities, seaport activity supports the employment of more than 23 million people in the United States. For every $1 billion worth of goods moved, 15,000 jobs are created. Twenty-six percent of our entire economy, $4.6 trillion in commerce, and $321 billion in federal, state, and local taxes are generated by marine cargo work.
Part 4 — Relevance
What does that mean to you? How does that affect your family?
All of this work generates taxes which support just about everything that affects your life. These taxes fund our hospitals and schools, they keep our libraries and parks open, and they repair our streets and maintain our sewage systems. They provide the payroll for our government workers which includes our military. Without them, the quality of our lives would be severely impacted.
Wealthy foreign companies which own and operate the terminals at our local twin-ports complex in Long Beach and Los Angeles are threatening our lives and our livelihoods with automated terminals that will eliminate thousands of jobs. The same jobs that generate the millions of dollars in taxes that sustain our standard of living.
Instead of men and women working at the ports, there will be robots doing their jobs. Robots will not pay taxes. Without these taxes, our infrastructure will crumble, the social order will deteriorate, and people will suffer.
Thousands of men and women whose jobs are directly connected to the ports will lose their income if port jobs are replaced with robots. This could cause thousands more to lose their homes, which could cause an even greater influx of homelessness in our region. The hygienic conditions of our streets would plunge, while the desperation of the situation would cause criminal activity to rise. These dire living conditions will bring down property values everywhere and will result in a tragic financial crisis that will decimate our surroundings and cause a ripple effect that will be felt nationwide. All of this because foreign companies want to replace American workers with robots.
Robots are only cool in sci-fi movies that have zero impact on real people. Robots are not cool in real life when they undermine the integrity of real families.
Part 5 — Accountability and Call to Action
Our elected and appointed officials have the power to grant or deny these foreign companies permission to automate terminals. They must be sensitive to the fact that their constituents need these jobs, and that they vote. Who is going to vote for a candidate who supports the loss of American jobs and the demise of an entire harbor region? Robots will not vote.
The ports of LA and LB are governed by Harbor Commissions which are appointed by their respective mayors and approved by their city councils. Each port administration has a fiduciary responsibility to its hosting city. It is negligent for any port to take action that will destroy the quality of life of its surrounding community. Just like Environmental Impact Reports are conducted to determine the ecological costs of a project on a community, a similar ECONOMIC Impact Report must be conducted to ascertain the financial costs of said project on the same community.
Although I am an elected union official within my local as well as an elected trustee on our local community college board, I am not using either of those platforms to ask for your support against this very pressing issue. I am pleading to you as a wife and mother who cares deeply about the well being of our neighborhoods and our schools, and the welfare of our neighbors and our children. I am personally reaching out to family, friends, and neighbors asking you all to join the fight against another automated terminal on the docks. The automated systems that we already have are under-performing and causing delays in operations that only humans can prevent and repair. We must stop this problem now, not add to it.
You have an opportunity to stand up for our community and to speak out against this attack on the quality of life that we all deserve. Please join other members of our community who also care about our future THIS THURSDAY…March 21st at the regularly scheduled Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commission meeting at 8:30 a.m. at the Cruise Terminal Baggage Handling Facility located at 250 South Harbor Blvd. in San Pedro. See you there!