It would be simplistic to allege than brain is replacing brawn. True the likes of Ford's River Rouge plant is history. But a car is a car. Modular parts require less hard labor and more attention to detail. Toyota admits as much.
Another way in which computers have made employees more equal is that they don't know how to identify gender, ethnic origin, or educational background. As a product is being assembled, all the more essential is it to hire those who are trained, and have the aptitude, to click one part into another part.
On a more social level, the part of the economy labeled consumer-oriented is still stuck with old social customs and modern techniques. Swifters may have replaced feather dusters, but the furniture still needs dusting in a motel. Just how much value does a hotel maid add to the company's bottom line? There she (usually she) needs "people skills." Never has there been much emphasis put on critical (executive) thinking. Therein lies a problem. Changing the job from cleaning furniture to bathing babies or invalids, where does the need for training and common sense fit? I submit that SEIU and those who believe in unionization of "low-paying" jobs needs to understand some jobs demand special skills and should require compensation accordingly. I, for one, delight in seeing male nurses as well as male orderlies in hospitals.
Here lies an old prejudice, finally breaking down as far as the client it concerned. Those who have specific training for both technique and "people skills" are valuable whether they work in nursing homes or childcare centers. A good administrative assistant can be valuable in consumer-oriented businesses. However, such persons usually do not enjoy the support of well-organized "labor" unions. Whatever it is called, those who work for a living need organizing in today's society. John L. Lewis had his place in helping coal miners make money. Now comes the time when a legal assistant or a fast food manager needs to have a group to adhere to.
Does it make a difference whether a union represents employees of both private and public institutions? What is there about air traffic controllers who should be judged other than by their training and motivation to serve the public? Political as this is, because of Ronald Reagan's bifurcation of public/private employment--well, is it time to rethink the question after 30 years?
My fervent wish is that if you run into some Democratic politicians who wax eloquent over their party's support of labor unions, will you please ask them "what union" and "what new legislation" and by the way--which support staff in your office enjoy genuine backup from an organization of their peers?