California sets quota limits for retailers and Amazon: Newsom signs first bill to protect workers’ health and safety

On Wednesday, California became the first state in the nation to stop mega-retailers from firing workers who miss warehouse related quotas due to bathroom and rest breaks. Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new law that would prevent retailers such as Amazon from disciplining workers who follow health and safety laws. It also lets employees sue to suspend quotas that are unsafe or to reverse retaliation from such companies.

 

Lorena Gonzalez, who is both a lawyer and a former labor leader, was the Democratic Assemblywoman who authored law AB701. She has said that Amazon had disciplined warehouse workers using an “algorithm” to track warehouse workers’ activities. The algorithm would call anything not directly to moving packages as an “off-task” activity. Although the bill is aimed at all retailers, Amazon’s dominance and unfriendly worker policies were responsible for the framing of the bill.

 

Governor Newsom said that they could not allow corporations to put profit over people in a new release that also notified that he had signed law AB701.

 

After the Golden State legislature passed the bill, Gonzalez said that Amazon had been pushing workers to risk their bodies for next day delivery, while they could not even use a restroom for fear of retaliation.

 

The new law allows workers to ask for 90 day documentation if they think their quotas lead to unsafe behavior. The company has to provide documents of how their speed meets or fails company set quotas. The company cannot discipline a worker within the 90 days as it would be presumed to be retaliation, after a complaint of unsafe quota from the employee.

 

Advocacy groups such as the Warehouse Worker Resource Center and the Strategic Organizing Center have said that Amazon workers were more likely to have serious injuries when compared with workers at other warehouses. The bill says that investigations have to be conducted if employee injury rate is more than 1.5 times higher than the industry’s average annual injury rate.

 

Some groups within the California’s Retailers Association called the legislation “burdensome” and “needlessly overboard.” However, it is a first step to put workers, especially those at warehouses, at the forefront as they toiled through the pandemic increasing the profits of huge retailers by huge percentages, so much so that the former founder and CEO of Amazon thanked his workers for making his hugely expensive trip to space possible.

 

When asked for comment by several news outlets, Amazon has not as yet responded to date.

Image Credit Facebook Gov. Newsom

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