- Mike Blount
- Communications Director
SACRAMENTO – (September 9, 2021) – The increasing shift by online e-commerce giants like Amazon to provide faster shipping rates has contributed to an alarming increase in warehouse workers' injury rates. Today, Assembly Bill 701 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to create the nation’s first transparency requirements and protections against abusive warehouse quota systems is heading to Governor Gavin Newsom for his consideration.
“Amazon is pushing workers to risk their bodies for next-day delivery, while they can’t so much as use the restroom without fearing retaliation. We can't allow corporations to get rich off of the injuries of their workforce,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said. “As we look to the future of work, we have to consider foremost the future of workers. This bill is a step forward in our efforts to empower workers to have a voice in their workplace, even when their supervisor is an algorithm.”
Companies like Amazon have taken advantage of a gap in labor law, which is silent on safe production quotas and work speeds. Minutes between scanning packages where an algorithm detects a worker is “off-task” can result in automatic discipline and even termination, forcing many workers to neglect basic needs like using the bathroom or skipping safety protocols. According to recent data on warehousing injuries during the pandemic, this working environment has resulted in Amazon warehouse workers experiencing serious injuries at a rate nearly 80 percent higher than the serious injury rate for all other employers in the warehousing industry in 2020.
A recent Los Angeles Times story highlighted former Amazon employee Nathan Morin, who worked in an Amazon warehouse in Redlands for three years as a packer, forklift driver and truck loader. According to Morin, from his first day, “Amazon said it’s a very physical job, but they never told us about the quotas,” he recalled. “You were allowed 30 minutes ‘time off task’ a week. But the bathrooms are at the far ends of the warehouse. If you took 10 minutes to go once a day when you weren’t on break, you would be written up at the end of the week.”
If AB 701 were signed into law, large warehouse employers would have 30 days to disclose quota descriptions to their workers. The bill would prohibit warehouse workers from being fired for failing to meet a quota that interfered with their ability to use the bathroom or take rest breaks, and explicitly bars employers from disciplining workers for being “off-task” when they are complying with health and safety laws.
Under AB 701, workers who believe a quota is unsafe are entitled to 90 days of their personal work speed metrics and descriptions of quotas, to better document violations. If a worker is disciplined within 90 days of requesting this data or complaining to their employer or a state agency about an unsafe quota, AB 701 creates a presumption that the action was retaliatory, taking the onus off of the worker to demonstrate the reason they were written up. AB 701 empowers workers to enforce their rights under the bill with the ability to pursue injunctive relief to suspend an unsafe quota or reverse a retaliatory action – directly addressing the root of the problem.
For questions on AB 701 or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Mike Blount: Mike.Blount@asm.ca.gov