A bill that has landed on the governor’s desk to protect California warehouse workers from demanding abusive quota systems.
Assembly Bill 701, which was recently approved by the Assembly and the Senate, was written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of D-San Diego. If the law is signed, it will be the first law in the country to disclose productivity requirements and work speed metrics set for company employees.
It will prohibit dismissal of workers for failing to meet quotas that interfere with the ability to use the bathroom or rest, and it will prohibit warehouse workers from being disciplined while they comply with hygiene safety laws.
Amazon in cross hair
The measure does not specifically name Amazon, but proponents and opponents of the bill say the Seattle-based e-commerce giant is clearly the main target of the rules.
Gonzalez said in a statement, “Amazon is pressuring workers to risk their bodies for the next day’s delivery when they can’t use the restroom without fear of retaliation.” “We cannot allow corporations to prosper from the injury of their workforce.”
Despite repeated attempts, Amazon representatives could not be reached for comment.
In an interview with The Guardian in February 2020, an Amazon spokesman said, “Like most companies, we have performance expectations for every Amazon and we measure actual performance against those expectations.”
The California Retailers Association opposes AB101, saying it affects many companies when the measure clearly targets Amazon.
“If you put this huge net behind a company, there will be unintended consequences,” said Rachel Michelin, president of the association. “We already have Cal / OSHA, which has the power to enforce workplace safety. If the rules require more teeth, let’s start there rather than make a whole new law. ”
Michelin said the bill would affect distribution centers across multiple industries and increase the cost of living for Californians, kill well-paying jobs and damage the region’s fragile supply chain.
Fifty organizations, from retailers and food producers to auto parts manufacturers and chambers of commerce, oppose the AB701. They are gathered via noonab701.org.
The rapid improvement in e-commerce shopping has created a frenzy in warehouses in Southern California, a trend that has made epidemic-alert consumers reluctant to shop in brick-and-mortar stores.
The flow of consumer goods from Asia through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has also boosted warehouse growth – especially in the domestic empire. Last year, the two-county area completed 52 million square feet Accommodation Transactions, according to CBRE, have been the most recorded.
Data from Digital Commerce 360 shows that consumers spent 79 791.70 billion online with U.S. retailers in 2020, up 32.4% from 59 598.02 billion the previous year. E-commerce spending represented about 20% of total retail sales last year, compared to 15.8% in 2019.
A horrible picture
A recent study by the Ontario-based Warehouse Workers Resource Center and Human Impact Partners paints a grim picture of working conditions at the Amazon warehouse.
“Workers reported that Amazon’s excess quota makes it impossible to complete work and create safe rates,” the report said. “Most of the workers surveyed reported that they experienced a constant pressure trying to maintain.”
One warehouse worker in the study claimed that in order to maintain the “rated” or expected speed of Amazon’s product movement, he would have to scan at least 200 items per hour, regardless of the size of the item.
If he stops scanning for more than six minutes – the time it might take to pack and scan a large item, for example – Amazon’s scanning device sounds an alarm that indicates he’s “stopped working” too much.
When employees exceed or exceed Amazon’s time-of-task limit or fail to rate, they face investigation, written or termination, the report said.
A fact sheet attached to the report shows that Amazon warehouse workers are only allowed to “stop work” for six minutes a day, excluding a 60-minute lunch break. Employees say the nearest restroom to the company’s huge warehouses is often more than six minutes away from their workstations.
“Amazon’s work rate indicates a dangerous pace of work that leads to injuries,” the report said. “Studies have shown that rapid pace of work is associated with health effects, including neck and shoulder pain, muscle or joint symptoms, and back disorders.”
]A percentage of Amazon employees surveyed for research reported injuries from their work at Amazon, and 5% said their required work rate was either “always” or “often” too high to work at a safe pace.
Gonzalez said the AB101 would give employees the ability to give voice in their workplace, even with their supervisor algorithm.
Under AB101, warehouse workers who deem quotas unsafe are entitled to 90 days of personal work-metrics and quota details in violation of good documents.
If an employee is disciplined within 90 days of requesting data or complains about an unsafe quota to their employer or a state agency, AB 701 makes an assumption that the move was retaliatory.