To defend a higher minimum wage, San Fran looks at... banning robots

We’ve examined many cases of how employers respond to demands for a rapidly increasing minimum wage. These can include reducing hours, laying off workers or just sticking their thumb in the eye of that whole Make America Great Again thing and moving their operations out of the country. But for some lower wage, lower skill jobs, they have also been moving to automation. This is particularly true in the food service industry, but it also affects delivery and messenger services. With the minimum wage in San Francisco currently at $13 dollars per hour, heading to $14 on July 1st and $15 one year after that, companies in the delivery business are already exploring the use of ground based robots to bring your packages, meals and groceries to your door. So what does the City by the Bay plan to do about it? Easy peasy, baby. They’ll just ban robots from the city streets. (The Guardian)

A hi-tech start-up aiming to bust congestion and reduce pollution with wheeled delivery robots is facing a backlash from the very city it is aiming to help.

Order a delivery meal from a local restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission and Potrero Hills neighbourhoods using Yelp Eat24 and it might arrive at your door in a suitcase-sized wheeled robot…

But if one San Francisco official has his way, every pizza the Marble robot delivers could come with a $1,000 fine and a jail sentence for its human controllers. San Francisco supervisor Norman Yee recently proposed legislation that would prohibit autonomous delivery robots – which includes those with a remote human operator – on public streets in the city.

Ah, San Francisco… is there nothing that the nanny state can’t solve with a sufficient number of business killing regulations?

The idea of ground based delivery drones was clearly a no-brainer given the arc of minimum wage laws. Paying a young person to deliver things for six or seven bucks an hour probably made decent business sense, but nobody is going to pay a kid with a bike and a backpack the same amount per hour that the average veterinary technician makes just to take a bag of cheeseburgers up to your apartment. The robots, made by a company named Marble, already cost less than $2K to purchase. In wages alone that means you would reach the break even point with a fifteen dollar per hour delivery person in under a month. And the robot never takes sick days or vacations, complains about overtime, demands a health care plan or anything else.

Rather than dealing with that reality and rethinking this whole Fight for 15 thing, San Francisco’s knee-jerk reaction is to look at forcing employers to pay people anyway by banning the new technology. In effect, they will simply be driving up the cost of all delivered goods on a massive scale. Won’t all the residents be pleased? When the price of your bag of groceries you’d like delivered to your door suddenly goes up by fifty bucks I don’t want to hear any complaints out of you San Franciscans. You keep electing these clowns and now, in the words of several very wise men, you have the government you deserve. So pay up and shut up.