Last week, warehouse workers, union leaders, elected officials and community groups came together on the steps of the California State Capitol. Their goal was to generate public support for California’s pro-worker worker protection law – also known as the Assembly Bill (AB) 701 – and to encourage the state Senate to pass it.
“Working in warehouses for companies like Amazon has quickly become one of the most dangerous jobs in the private sector,” said MP Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), putting giant online retailers within the scope of her target.
In the United States, e-commerce is skyrocketing, growing from a $ 441.51 billion industry in 2017 to a market valued at $ 759.47 billion in 2020. Amazon.com has the largest market share (around 40%) among major online retailers, followed by Walmart (around 7%) and eBay (around 4%).
Gonzales said she was the author of AB 701 to help reduce worker injuries, encourage more transparency and end the use of production quotas in businesses and government agencies, which, critics say contributes to low job satisfaction and harmful working conditions.
“Workers risk their bodies to secure same-day delivery and are pushed to the point that many can’t even stop long enough to use the bathroom. There is no excuse for a company to prioritize the convenience of customers and their own profits over the safety of their workers, ”said Gonzales.
In March 2020, Irene Tung and Deborah Berkowitz released a National Employment Law Project (NELP) report titled “Amazon’s Disposable Workers: High Injury and Turnover Rates at Fulfillment Centers in California. “
According to the study, “workers who cannot meet extreme productivity goals are made redundant or encouraged to quit.”
“Amazon workers across the country have said they are under too rapid productivity demands, leading to injury and burnout. Workers describe pushing their bodies over the edge to avoid automatic termination for missing quotas, ”the NELP report said. “Data from the company’s own records confirmed their accounts showing that Amazon’s warehouses have surprisingly high injury rates.”
Assembly Member Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), Chairman of the Assembly Labor Committee; State Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose), Chairman of the Senate Labor Committee; State Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles); and Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) all attended the rally.
Jones-Sawyer said her 19-year-old son worked at Amazon last summer before going to college in Colorado. He fell ill and had to take time off from work. When he returned to work, after three weeks, he was fired.
“Unfortunately, he’s seen all the bad things about working in a factory,” Jones-Sawyer said.
Jones-Sawyer said he attended the rally for his son.
“This is why I am here, not only for my son, but for all the other sons who don’t have a father who can speak for them,” he said. When it is again submitted to the Assembly for adoption, I will rise, speak and vote for it again.
The language of AB 701 directs the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal / OSHA) to set new standards by January 1, 2023, which are “designed to minimize the risk of injury. and troubles among warehouse workers who are subject to production. quota.
The California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) called AB 701 “job-killing legislation” in April and criticized it as one of “23 bills that would endanger California employers and state economy ”if it became law.
“(AB 701) threatens warehouse employers with costly duplicate litigation by creating a new independent private right of action and representative action under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) for breach of vague standards.” CalChamber said in a statement. declaration. The organization is the biggest advocate for business in California.
In California, Amazon’s warehouses are located in counties whose populations are “overwhelmingly people of color,” according to the NELP study. Together, almost 75% of warehouse workers are minorities. Of that number, about 55% are Latinos and about 9% are Blacks.
If passed by the Senate and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, AB 701 would require employers to inform employees of quotas that companies and organizations set to measure their performance.
The law requires employers to quantify the work that employees are expected to do. They should explain specific tasks and how the achievement of these goals may affect their professional status.
“AB 701 also directs the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal / OSHA) to establish new standards by January 1, 2023, which are” designed to minimize the risk of injury and unrest among warehouse workers subject to production quotas. “
The bill also prohibits an employer from taking disciplinary action (including dismissal) against employees for failing to meet quotas that were not disclosed to them. In addition, legislation prohibits quotas that do not allow a worker to comply with meal or rest periods or occupational health and safety laws.