'Pushed to the Breaking Point': Gonzalez Bill to Protect Warehouse Workers from Dangerous Work Speeds Approved by Senate Committee

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – (Tuesday, July 13, 2021) – Increased consumer demand for the fastest order deliveries at the lowest cost has contributed to soaring workplace injury rates for warehouse workers. Today, Assembly Bill 701 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez to establish statewide protections for warehouse workers against dangerous work speeds and unsafe production quotas passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.  
“Working in warehouses for corporations like Amazon has quickly become one of the most dangerous jobs in the private sector,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez (D-San Diego). “Workers are risking their bodies to guarantee same-day delivery and being pushed to the point that many can’t even break long enough to use the bathroom. There is no excuse for a company to prioritize customers’ convenience and their own profits over the safety of their workers.”  
As a result of increasing pressures for warehouse workers to rush through safety rules and meet rate, warehouse workers have had to resort to urinating into empty plastic bottles to meet productivity standards. Yesenia Barrera, a former warehouse employee at an Amazon warehouse facility in the Inland Empire, reported being required to work grueling 10-hour shifts with no overtime pay or proper meal and rest breaks. 
"Amazon has a surveillance and monitoring system that keeps track of worker production, how many items they can pack per second, per hour, and even informs managers when a worker has not scanned or moved a box for a couple minutes," Barrera said. "This determines if you get written up or let go. We are carrying, bending, reaching, twisting and packing items from 30-60 pounds for hours a day, and walk 15-30 miles a day with no proper rest time in between."
AB 701 prohibits companies from disciplining or firing a warehouse worker for failing to meet a quota that does not allow them to take meal and rest breaks and comply with health and safety laws. The bill would empower warehouse workers to enforce their rights to a safe workplace by pursuing injunctive relief to suspend an unsafe quota, or to address disciplinary action a worker faced when an employer enforced an unsafe quota.
According to recent data on warehousing injuries during the pandemic, Amazon warehouse workers in particular were seriously injured at a rate nearly 80 percent higher than the serious injury rate for all other employers in the warehousing industry in 2020. Nearly 75 percent of recorded injuries consisted of musculoskeletal injuries, such as sprains, strains and tears. AB 701 directs the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to establish new standards by January 1, 2023 to minimize the risk of injuries and disorders among warehouse employees who are subject to production quotas.
For questions or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Mike Blount: Mike.Blount@asm.ca.gov