Bill would improve worker conditions at warehouse distribution centers

California

TRACY, CA – JANUARY 20: Boxes move along a conveyor belt at an Amazon fulfillment center on January 20, 2015 in Tracy, California. Amazon officially opened its new 1.2 million square foot fulfillment center in Tracy, California that employs more than 1,500 full time workers as well as 3,000 Kiva robots that can fetch merchandise for workers and are capable of lifting up to 750 pounds. Amazon is currently using 15,000 of the robots spread over 10 fulfillment centers across the country. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, introduced a bill Tuesday aimed at improving worker conditions at warehouse distribution centers in order to minimize on-the-job injuries and prevent worker exploitation related to quota systems.

Assembly Bill 701 would require employers to disclose work quotas their employees are expected to meet and would prevent employees from being punished for failing to meet a quota if the quota doesn’t allow them to comply with health and safety laws, or was not previously disclosed to them.

AB 701 would also require Cal/OSHA to propose new statewide standards to minimize injury and illness risks for warehouse distribution center employees.

In announcing the bill, Gonzalez took particular aim at Amazon for conditions at its warehouses, which she alleged have forced workers to weigh the risks to their health versus that of losing their jobs.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the bill.

A statement from Gonzalez’s office alleges that Amazon’s workers are injured at double the average rate of the general warehousing industry and triple the average rate across all private employers, outpacing on-the-job injuries for coal miners, lumberjacks, trash collectors and police officers.

The lawmaker’s office also alleged that employee expectations have been accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and employees have been fired for failing to meet increasingly rigorous expectations or pressured to violate safety rules in order to keep up.

Cal/OSHA cited Amazon last year for failures to mitigate workers’ exposure to COVID-19 at its warehouses in Hawthorne and Eastvale, according to Gonzalez’s office.

“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,” Gonzalez alleged. “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.”

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