California legislators aim to restrict self-checkout in order to mitigate theft and address racial bias

California lawmakers are proposing restrictions on the use of self-checkout machines, claiming that they contribute to theft. The bill, sponsored by a union, suggests that there should be one employee for every two self-checkout stands. Furthermore, the bill suggests that self-checkout machines should only be accessible to customers purchasing 10 items or less. The union also argues that the implementation of anti-theft devices is a result of “racial bias.”

Critics argue that it is the thieves, not the self-checkout machines, who are responsible for theft. They believe that implementing a mandatory “worker and consumer impact assessment” for every new technology would have a negative impact on the state’s economy.

With the current $20 per hour minimum wage and the highest unemployment rate in the nation, the additional requirement for more workers in retail stores could potentially lead to more closures. This would further decrease state revenues, which is a significant concern as the state is already facing a budget deficit of up to $80 billion for the 2024-2025 fiscal year.

According to the United Food and Commercial Workers, the union supporting SB 1446 and anticipating increased membership as a result of the bill, the responsibility for theft lies with self-checkout systems, not thieves themselves.

The union expressed its support for the bill, highlighting the risks that understaffed stores pose, including theft, assault, and violent incidents.

The bill goes a step further by prohibiting the purchase of items with theft-deterrence measures at self-checkout, even if an employee disables the device. The union, in its effort to minimize the use of locked up items by raising labor costs for disabling anti-theft devices, attributes the use of such measures to racism rather than theft.

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“The union expressed its concern over the products that are being locked up in certain stores and the implications of racial bias. This has understandably angered customers who feel unfairly targeted by these practices.”

The bill’s requirement for burdensome reports on the use of any new technology has been criticized by the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Retailers Association, who are opposed to the bill. They argue that thieves should be held responsible for theft, and believe that the bill would have a “significant” impact on job functions, stifling innovation and hindering business growth.

According to the coalition, it is crucial to take into account the possible impact of new technologies on employees and consumers. However, they argue that excessively burdensome regulations, like the ones outlined in this bill, could hinder business growth, innovation, and competitiveness in today’s digital economy. The coalition also points out that retail theft often occurs regardless of whether there are employees at checkout lanes or the presence of self-checkout options.

According to the coalition, they believe that the 10-item limit for self-checkout is both unnecessary and harmful.

The individuals argued that including such a restriction in the law could lead to unnecessary legal disputes and put the burden on retailers to monitor the number of items being processed in self-checkout lanes. This, in turn, could potentially create conflicts between customers and retail employees.

SB 1446 has successfully cleared the Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee and has now been placed on the suspense file for the Senate Appropriations Committee. This committee will now assess the fiscal impact of the bill, especially considering the state’s significant budget deficit.

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