SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California on Wednesday became the first state to ban mega-retailers from firing warehouse workers for missing quotas that interfere with restroom and rest breaks under a new law signed by the Governor Gavin Newsom who moved from ordering Amazon to ship goods to consumers faster.
The measure also prohibits Amazon, the online retail giant, and similar companies from disciplining workers for following health and safety laws and allows employees to sue to suspend dangerous quotas or reverse retaliation. The bill applies to all warehouse distribution centers, although supporters have been motivated by Amazon’s dominance.
“We cannot allow companies to put profit before people,” Newsom, a Democrat, said in a press release announcing that he had signed the law.
The law, AB 701, was drafted by Democratic MK Lorena Gonzalez, a lawyer and former union leader. She accused Amazon of disciplining warehouse workers using an “algorithm” that tracks employee activities and can determine that anything not directly related to the movement of packages is “off task.”
“Amazon is pushing workers to risk their bodies for an overnight delivery, when they can’t even use the toilet without fear of retaliation,” Gonzalez said as the legislature passed. his bill.
Amazon did not respond to requests for comment on its legislation or claims. The law gives large warehouse employers 30 days to disclose quotas to employees.
Workers who believe their quotas lead to unsafe behavior can request 90 days of documentation on how their working speed meets or fails the quota. Any disciplinary action within those 90 days is presumed to be retaliatory action, as is any disciplinary action within 90 days of an employee’s complaint to the company or a public body about an unsafe quota.
Gonzalez cited reports from several workers’ rights groups, including the Resource center for warehouse workers and the Strategic organization center to assert that Amazon employees are much more likely to sustain serious injuries than those who work in other warehouses.
California workplace regulators should consider investigating whether a job site or employer has an annual employee injury rate at least 1.5 times the average annual injury rate in the warehousing industry, in under his bill.
Yesenia Barrera, a former warehouse worker who is now an organizer at the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, recalled the constant pressure to carry and “carry, fold, reach, twist and wrap 30 to 60 pound items for hours a day. “.
But 27 business organizations led by the California Retailers Association objected that California is home to thousands of warehouse distribution centers that collectively “provide quality jobs to hundreds of thousands of working-class Californians.”
The groups in a letter to legislators cited data from the US Department of Labor that showed wages in the transportation and warehousing industry rose more than 17% in the past year.
Amazon alone says it employs over 150,000 Californians, including in dozens of “distribution centers”.
The legislation is “both cumbersome and unnecessarily too broad,” the business groups said, arguing that workers are protected by existing workplace safety standards.
In a statement, California Retailers Association president Rachel Michelin said the measure “will exacerbate our current supply chain problems, increase the cost of living for all Californians and eliminate high paying jobs.”
“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 backlogged cargo and higher prices for everything from clothing, diapers and food to auto parts, toys and pet supplies, ”Michelin said.
According to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which co-sponsored the bill, warehouse workers in California are a disproportionately 54 percent Latino and 9.5 percent black.
He argued that these groups also have fewer employment options and were more likely to suffer during the coronavirus pandemic which has increased consumers’ reliance on online shopping and increased profits for retailers.