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Interior view of a self-driving shuttle in New York City's Times Square. Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

A union representing Ohio bus drivers is threatening to strike in response to the planned introduction of a low-speed driverless shuttle in Columbus that will operate in partnership with the Ohio Department of Transportation. The union has launched a statewide campaign against driverless vehicles, calling them dangerous and a threat to jobs.

The big picture: Nearly 3% of the U.S. workforce is employed in driving occupations, amounting to 4 million jobs that stand to be eliminated as AVs hit the roads. Nearly 16% of these workers are unionized, so standoffs like the one in Columbus are likely to occur across the country.

Why it matters: State and local governments are motivated by the prospect of saving money, increasing safety and attracting businesses to smart cities that appeal to younger, tech-savvy workers. Private sector employers likewise stand to gain from automation.

But job losses for driving occupations are certain and will spark legal fights for employers. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, bus drivers tend to be older, less educated and unionized. These workers have fewer alternative employment opportunities and are therefore inclined to resist the rollout of job-displacing AVs.

What to watch: Employers who plan to take advantage of this new technology can take multiple steps to address employee concerns, such as educating workers about the new jobs that will be created and providing training to ensure qualified workers are available. Where threats of strikes exist, employers negotiating new union agreements might even have a duty to bargain with the union over any adoption of AV technology and its effect on employees. Employers that fail to meet their legal obligations could be ordered to reinstate anyone laid off, with backpay.

Mike Greco is founding partner and chair of the Autonomous Vehicles Practice Group at Fisher Phillips.

Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

7 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

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