California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed Assembly Bill 701, establishing new protections for workers in warehouse distribution centers.
The new law requires employers operating large warehouses in the state to disclose workers’ production quotas. It also prohibits disciplinary action against workers for missing quotas as a result of health or safety related breaks.
AB 701, which takes effect January 1, 2022, has been drafted taking into account Amazon’s warehouse management practices.
“Amazon’s business model is built on the application of inhumane work speeds that injure and make workers work at a faster rate than ever before,” said Congresswoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), who proposed the bill, in a press release.
“Workers are not machines. We are not going to allow a company that puts profits above the bodies of workers to set labor standards back decades just for ‘same day delivery’. ”
Gonzalez called the bill an effort to give workers basic dignity, help them stay safe, and regulate algorithmic job monitoring and goal setting.
Amazon, the second largest employer in the United States behind Walmart, has come to the attention of Democratic state and federal lawmakers following ongoing reports of its treatment of workers and anti-union efforts.
In February 2020, 15 U.S. Democratic Senators wrote an open letter to CEO Jeff Bezos, expressing concern for the safety of Amazon workers. The letter said the company’s own injury reports suggested Amazon was prioritizing productivity over worker health and safety.
“Amazon’s dismal safety record indicates a greater concern for profits than for the safety and health of your own workers,” the letter said, and it challenges the company to treat workers better. making their quotas more manageable and not counting bathroom breaks as “off-duty time.”
Several months later public denial that its employees piss into bottles to keep the time off task from being blamed on them, and then back out, Amazon made a concession in June by saying it “averages the time off duty over a period of time longer to ensure there is more signal and less noise. “
This statistical change that will make short breaks less significant in business productivity metrics.
Amazon critics would like to see further reforms. And AB 701 is expected to meet some of these demands by improving conditions for warehouse workers, and not just at Amazon facilities.
The law on warehouse distribution centers:
- Prohibits employers from punishing workers based on performance quotas that ignore health and safety laws.
- Requires employers to provide workers with written notice of these quotas.
- Establishes an employee’s right to access personal work speed measurements.
- Establishes a private right of action for workers who believe they have been retaliated against based on quota performance, and allows recovery of reasonable costs and attorney fees from the employer.
The legislation has been welcomed by trade union groups.
“Passage of the Warehouse Worker Protection Act is a victory for warehouse workers in [California] who have continued to make our communities work throughout the pandemic, ”said Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, via Twitter. “It’s a victory for every worker who has spoken up, called their representative or joined one of our actions.”
Not surprisingly, the California Retailers Association, a business group that lobbied against the bill, was less enthusiastic.
“We are disappointed that Governor Newsom has signed AB 701, which will exacerbate our current supply chain problems, increase the cost of living for all Californians and eliminate high paying jobs,” said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association and chair of the No to AB 701 coalition, a group of 50 organizations opposed to the bill.
“With California ports facing record backlogs of ships waiting offshore and inflation reaching the fastest rate in 13 years, AB 701 will make matters worse for everyone – creating more goods out of stock and higher prices for everything from clothes, diapers and food to auto parts, toys and pet supplies. “
Over the summer, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a Washington, DC-based retail group, warned that AB 701 “would make it virtually impossible to fire employees with any knowledge of these rules if they failed to do so. performance”.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. ®