Khanna warns AI could ‘erode’ workers’ rights, pay

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) warned about the risks the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) could have on the working class and called for federal policy that would give workers power over decisions about AI in an op-ed published Thursday in The New York Times.  

Khanna, who represents a district that includes Silicon Valley, wrote that while AI will “undoubtedly bring benefits” to the economy, the “real challenge” is figuring out how to “center the dignity and economic security of working-class Americans during the changes to come.” 

“The Democratic Party cannot claim to be the party of the working class if we allow A.I. to erode the earnings and security of the working class,” he wrote.  

In addition to having a voice and guardrails, Khanna said that workers should have a share in company profits. He said that workers, like many chief executives, should receive compensation based on profits and the company’s performance, rather than just on hours worked.  

“It’s the only way workers can fully thrive as A.I. increases America’s productive capacity,” he wrote.  

He also wrote that federal policy should require that public companies have active worker participation when they make decisions based on how AI will change jobs.  

The impact of AI on jobs, and how it may displace workers, has emerged as a key concern in discussions about AI regulation.  

So far, Congress has yet to take legislative action to regulate AI. As lawmakers continue to weigh proposals about labor and other impacts of AI, workers in certain industries are crafting their own rules.  

The Writers Guild of America secured AI protections for union members in October as part of contract negotiations with Hollywood studios. The protections give power to members over how AI is used. SAG-AFTRA followed in November, securing AI protections in their union contract with studios as well.