Everyone needs to calm down with the crazy rhetoric about the Stop & Shop strike and start being honest with themselves about what is really going on here.

The internet, an oversaturated marketplace, crippling government regulations and demand for greater compensation for menial and unskilled labor has ushered in a new era of devastation for traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Have you been to an area mall lately?

Anyone who tells you that greedy Stop & Shop management is simply stealing from workers in order to stuff their own pockets is either lying to you or is totally devoid of reality. We are living with a whole new reality and it's about time people open their eyes and understand what is happening. It's about to get real, folks.

Stores such as Stop & Shop have already introduced robots. Their numbers and responsibilities will increase. Walmart will introduce robots in our area soon.

It's estimated that some 73 million U.S. jobs will be replaced by automation by 2030. That's a lot of jobs. Many of those jobs are currently held by individuals with limited education and a low skill set. How will these people be absorbed into the workforce as the transition progresses? Good question.

All of the hey, hey, ho, hos for higher wages and more respect bolster the profile of the labor unions but it masks the evolution that is occurring in the business world worldwide, and nothing is going to stop it from happening. Experts suggest another 75,000 retail stores could close their doors within the next couple of years.

You want to offer these folks on strike at Stop & Shop some meaningful assistance? Advise them to get some training and quickly. Find a growth area and get training now before it's too late. The times they are a-changing and they are changing rapidly. Those who hesitate will be swept away.

For the younger folks who tell me they are appalled by Stop & Shop's greed and the audacity of the company to take care of its executives, understand that nobody owes you a living. No company is obligated to provide for your needs. It doesn't matter how hard you toil for them. You must provide for yourself and the needs of your family.

Demanding that Stop & Shop give you a greater share of the pie is a losing proposition. Leave, if you don't like the terms, but know this: times are tough all over at the bottom of the food chain. There is no time like the present to prepare for the future.

Political and business leaders who fail to prepare now for the dramatic changes taking place in the world of brick-and-mortar do so at their own peril. Cities like New Bedford, with large numbers of undereducated and low skilled workers, will be hardest hit.

Rather than posing for photos on the picket lines, offering false hope to workers who are unprepared for what's about to hit, the politicians need to start planning for the future. Grant funding for training programs should be sought and workers educated about what they need to do to transition into the new reality.

Failure to prepare for the automation age will be devastating for our city and will lead to higher crime and unemployment numbers, among other problems.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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