New California law aims to protect workers in retail warehouses like Amazon’s

California became the first state to implement a law that addresses the working conditions of warehouse workers, like those at Amazon and other large corporations.

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 701 on Wednesday, which will take effect in the new year. The law aims to combat the impact of quotas on injuries and the health of workers.

It sets new standards for companies to clearly tell warehouse staff what their production quotas are. The law ensures that workers cannot be made redundant or face reprisals if they fail to meet a dangerous quota.

“We cannot allow companies to put profit before people. Warehouse workers who have worked hard to support us during this unprecedented time should not have to risk injury or be punished because of quotas. ‘operations that violate basic health and safety, “Newsom said in a statement.

“I am proud to sign this legislation which gives them the dignity, respect and safety they deserve and which advances California leadership at the forefront of workplace safety.”

Under this law, the State Labor Commission is empowered to issue citations to offending companies. The department is also authorized to access workers’ compensation data to find facilities with high injury rates and to investigate whether this is due to the use of unsafe quotas.

The law also prohibits the use of algorithms that track rest and toilet breaks and specifically prohibits the dismissal of workers for failing to meet unsafe quotas because they were on rest or toilet break or while they complied with health and safety laws.

How does this law focus on Amazon?

US retail giant Amazon relies heavily on thousands of workers to fill its huge warehouses, also known as distribution centers. During the pandemic, Americans relied heavily on online shopping for their products. In turn, the company, the second largest employer in the United States behind Walmart, has hired thousands of workers and plans to hire 100,000 more workers this year.

Workers and labor organizations argue that Amazon’s rules in company distribution centers create an unsafe work environment. Investigations by news organizations and the Worker-backed Strategic Organization Center found that the serious injury rate in Amazon warehouses was nearly double the industry average.

Tracked by algorithms, Amazon warehouse workers rush to pack and ship non-stop shopping orders that need to be delivered within hours.

While workers are at work, Amazon monitors their “time off task,” which the company says is monitoring “problems with the tools people use.” But it also works to identify underperforming workers. Too much free time and the algorithm signals workers.

The company has not posted a public comment on the new California law.

Other players in the retail space have done so.

“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,” Rachel Michelin said Wednesday. , president of the California Retailers Association, in a statement. .

Michelin said the change would be felt by consumers, even claiming that shipping of COVID-19 tests from warehouses and distribution centers to hospitals, pharmacies and doctor’s offices would be slowed down due to the law.

“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 backlogs. higher prices for everything from clothes, diapers and food to auto parts, toys and pet supplies, ”she said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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