Press Release

Senator Smallwood-Cuevas Joins Labor Advocates at Virtual Press Event in Support of SB 1446 to Better Safeguard Workers, Jobs and Stores

As self-checkout has become more commonplace, lone workers have become easy targets for theft and violence. Today, Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles), California Labor Federation Chief Operating Officer Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, grocery and retail store workers, and criminal justice advocates held an online press conference to discuss their support of SB 1446 – the Retail Theft Prevention and Safety Act – and how the proliferation of self-checkout has caused this increase in theft and violence and how California can begin to curb these issues.


“While it’s crucial to adapt to new technologies, protecting jobs and worker safety must be prioritized in the process,” said Senator Smallwood-Cuevas, the bill’s author. “SB 1446 will protect workers and the public by ensuring safe staffing levels at grocery and drug retail stores and regulating self-checkout machines.”


In 2011, California passed AB 183 (Ma) in law, which banned the sale of alcohol via self-checkout machines in response to "evidence of inadequate staffing, inconsistent monitoring, and technological failures” at self-checkout that increased illegal purchases of alcohol and harmed public health. Since then, self-checkout has rapidly spread in retail grocery and drug stores, with some stores that do not sell alcohol having eliminated checkout staffed by human workers. 


Grocery and retail workers are forced to stock merchandise, operate checkout and cater to customers, all while trying to monitor the stores for theft. This reduction in staffing has occurred as a result of growing presence of self-checkout, leading to increased workplace violence and retail theft. 


“Over Super Bowl weekend, I observed three women walking out of the store and not pay for their groceries. I called the Police Department to report the women and the theft, and the women saw me on the phone and came into the store and attacked me,” said Letizia Costa, a grocery store worker at Lucky’s in Pinole. “It was very terrifying and I feared for my life, and I still get anxious working at the self-checkout area because my back is toward the front door. Because of this incident, I am terrified to report incidents of theft. But SB 1446 will help by ensuring that grocery stores are properly staffed to prevent retail theft and make sure customers and workers are safe from workplace violence. No worker should have to go through what I went through.” 


SB 1446 will protect workers and the public by ensuring safe staffing levels at grocery and drug-retail stores and regulating self-checkout machines. This bill will also put in place guardrails to prevent worker displacement and harm to consumers when retail employers adopt new technologies.

“In California, less than 7% of people committing larceny and theft are caught. That's why we need to invest in preventive measures that stop theft before it happens,” said Cristine Soto Deberry, Executive Director of the Prosecutors Alliance of California. “SB 1446 does just that by ensuring stores and self-checkout machines are adequately staffed, which will deter individuals from stealing and protect the businesses and workers in our communities.”


“Retailers deserve to feel safe, as do shoppers and all Californians, and this bill is a practical solution that will have a direct impact on the safety of workers and customers alike,” said Ed Little, Government Affairs Manager for Californians for Safety and Justice. “We all benefit the more people feel safe going out to shop and socialize in our communities.”  


SB 1446 is the only legislative solution that takes into account working people’s voices and how the culture of understaffing embedded in corporate grocery and retail stores has affected the increase in theft and violence Californians experience daily.


“The future of work should be shaped by workers and community, not left to corporations that profit from automating jobs. No one wants to shop in stores staffed by machines instead of workers. Replacing grocery workers with automated self-checkout machines has made stores less safe for everyone," said Fletcher. “This bill ensures safe staffing and limitations on self-checkout to protect good jobs in the industry, restore safety and reduce organized theft.”


View a recording of the SB 1446 press conference here:

Passcode: n$#9%a02


Senator Lola Smallwood Cuevas represents the 28th Senate District, which includes the communities of South Los Angeles, Culver City, West Los Angeles, Century City and Downtown Los Angeles. Senator Smallwood-Cuevas spent more than two decades serving as a labor organizer, civil rights activist and community advocate before her election to the State Senate. She resides in the View Park community of South Los Angeles with her family.


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