Outsourcing is a time-honored American tradition. First, you had a job. Then your job was given to someone, somewhere else, who could do it cheaper. But what if instead of a low-wage worker in China, you were replaced by a low-wage worker in Florida, who was sitting at a desk, staring into a camera and doing your old job by video? Then you'd be a bank teller.
Since Bank of America launched their new ATM's earlier this year, complete with video-conferenced bank tellers, the writing has been on the wall for what was once one of the most stable jobs around. Pleading in an online petition to get Bank of America to keep its tellers, an anonymous bank employee wrote, "I went to work as a teller at Bank of America because I thought it would offer me the opportunities I had not received in other industries, like paid vacation days, sick pay, and a decent wage—things that are critical to me as a student trying to make my way through college."
But now that the jobs are moving to huge call centers in low-wage states like Florida and Delaware (here's an application to become one), tellers are slowly being replaced by video screens in more and more banks. While advocates of keeping wages low for service industry jobs warn of robots replacing humans if wages were made higher, decently paid tellers are finding out the cruelty of profit-motive first: Because they get paid well, the banks are looking to replace them with robots.
Of course, the ATM itself is one of the most ubiquitous machines in the world, and that used to be a person as well. But to lose the non-management employees of a banking branch to save a few pennies seems especially callous, but perhaps not unexpected for Bank of America.