The Oregon chapter of the AFL-CIO thinks it has a dandy idea: Limit self-checkout stands at grocery stores and Oregon will be a better place. It has filed an initiative petition with the Secretary of State that would limit the stands to two per grocery store. It hopes to gather enough signatures to place the proposal on the November 2020 ballot.

Since when did it become the business of government to dictate the maximum number of automated checkout lines in a private grocery store? It’s not.

The petition itself is an interesting one. It cites the benefits of checking out with a cashier, including social interaction and assistance if you need it. It also cites what its authors say are the ills of self-service checkout, including a better chance for shoplifting, more illegal alcohol sales and credit card thefts.

But, according to the Loss Prevention Research Council, theft and other illegal activities can be reduced if self-service checkout areas get reasonable monitoring by store employees. In reality, the AFL-CIO’s problem with self-service checkout is not theft, nor isolation, nor illegal alcohol sales. Rather, it’s the notion that automation means a cut in the number of union-member store employees.

We can’t blame unions for fighting for better wages, benefits and working conditions for their members. But then employers can’t be blamed for looking to automation to hold down costs for themselves and their customers.

As almost any busy shopper can tell you, self-service checkout can be a big time saver when lines are long at the manned checkout stations. Don’t sign any such petition.

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