Assemblywoman Gonzalez Introduces Bill to Protect Warehouse Workers from Hazardous Working Conditions

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

SACRAMENTO – (Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021) – Brutal work speeds are widely blamed for soaring workplace injuries of frontline warehouse employees working for online retail giants like Amazon. Today, California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced Assembly Bill 701 to protect employees in warehouse distribution centers by creating statewide standards to minimize on the job injuries and strengthen workers’ rights against arbitrary and abusive work quota systems.

“While corporations like Amazon are collecting record profits during the pandemic, employees in their warehouses are being expected to do more, go faster and work harder without clear safety standards,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “It’s unacceptable for one the largest and wealthiest employers in the country to put workers’ bodies and lives at risk just so we can get next-day delivery.”

Increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide the fastest order deliveries at the lowest cost is creating a race to the bottom, accelerating the decline in warehouse working conditions. Amazon workers complain of relentless quotas and crushing workloads and speeds, managed through a system of constant surveillance. An employee’s failure to meet 100% of Amazon’s productivity expectations can result in automatic terminations, forcing workers to break safety rules to keep up with their quotas, or risk losing their jobs.

AB 701 would require employers to disclose work quotas their employees are expected to meet, including any disciplinary actions an employee would face for failing to meet the quota. Under the bill, an employee could not be punished for failing to meet a quota that does not allow them to comply with health and safety laws, or a quota that was not disclosed to them beforehand.

Amazon workers from California to New York have warned that increasing work pressures prevented them from washing their hands more frequently, sanitizing shared work equipment, and maintaining sufficient physical distancing. Following these worker complaints, California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) cited Amazon last October for inadequate worker training related to these failures in two Southern California warehouses.

AB 701 requires Cal/OSHA to propose new standards that minimize the risk of illness and injury among warehouse distribution center employees who work under production quotas.

Amazon’s own records show that its workers are injured on the job at double the average rate of the general warehousing industry, and triple the average rate across all private employers. In fact, Amazon warehouse workers are injured more frequently than coal miners, lumberjacks, trash collectors, and police officers. And the problem appears to be getting worse, with injury rates in Amazon warehouses increasing by 33% between 2016 and 2019.

For questions or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Sami Gallegos: samantha.gallegos@asm.ca.gov