Larry Collins: Illustrating how our workplaces are changing
Long-time member and union activist Larry Collins, a toll collector who serves as Chief Steward for DLC 747, spoke recently with Time magazine about the changes his work has undergone as California adjusted to a world with COVID-19. As the risks of person-to-person transmission increased, he was sent home from his booth on the Carquinez Bridge in the Bay Area. However, what began as a safety measure quickly became something devastating.
“Collins’ job was disappearing, as were the jobs of around 185 other toll collectors at bridges in Northern California, all to be replaced by technology,” Time magazine reported. “Going forward, drivers would pay bridge tolls automatically via FasTrak tags mounted on their windshields or would receive bills sent to the address linked to their license plate.”
These jobs being replaced by technological solutions will impact huge numbers of workers, including an estimated 132,000 Black workers in this decade. Even if programs adapting these technologies become more efficient, the communities these programs serve still need accessible and easy-to-understand retraining programs.
Fortunately, SEIU 1000’s contract provides retraining funding, but for many older workers, the pandemic may force an early retirement. We must fight for all workers to ensure that even in these crises, they have a voice in the room as the decision to close or open workplaces is made.