New York passes bill targeting Amazon warehouse productivity quotas

A worker sorts packages on the outbound dock at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Eastvale, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.

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New York state lawmakers on Friday approved a bill targeting Amazon’s use of warehouse productivity quotas, the latest sign officials are cracking down on the retailer’s labor practices. on line.

The state Assembly passed the bill, called the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, after it was approved by the state Senate on Wednesday. He is now heading to the office of New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who has not yet indicated whether she will sign the measure.

The legislation requires Amazon and other companies that operate warehouses to provide workers with documentation of their production quotas and notify them of any changes in their expectations. It also prohibits companies from imposing quotas that prevent workers from taking meal, rest or bathroom breaks.

The bill comes two months after an Amazon warehouse in New York voted to join a union, the first time it had happened at one of the company’s U.S. facilities. Workers at the warehouse, located on Staten Island, are represented by the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), a grassroots group of current and former company employees.

New York is not the first state to take such action against Amazon and its quota peers. In September, California enacted a similar bill. And earlier this year, lawmakers in Washington and New Hampshire introduced bills targeting production quotas at warehouses.

Amazon relies on sophisticated algorithms to track the productivity rates of its warehouse workers, recording the number of packages they pick, pack and put away each hour. If workers pause too long in analyzing packages, Amazon’s internal system will register it as a “leave task” and generate a warning, which can lead to layoffs.

Amazon’s productivity quotas have been a frequent target of labor advocacy groups and Amazon’s own employees, who say its relentless focus on speed is leading to workplace injuries in warehouses. Several studies by the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions, have attributed high injury rates among warehouse and delivery workers to “Amazon’s obsession with speed.”

Workplace quotas have become increasingly common in warehouses as same-day and next-day delivery becomes the norm, the bill says.

“These quotas generally do not allow workers to comply with safety guidelines or recover from strenuous activity during productive working time, leaving warehouse and distribution center employees who work under their responsibility at risk. high in injury and illness,” the law says.

Amazon representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon has previously said it has made safety a higher priority within the company, including introducing programs to educate employees on how to avoid injuries on the job. Amazon executives also denied that the company uses production quotas in its warehouses.

“It’s a misconception that Amazon has quotas. We don’t,” Heather MacDougall, Amazon’s head of workplace safety, said at an event with the National Safety Council on Thursday. “We are committed to ensuring that performance expectations and security operations can co-exist.”

The ALU is pushing for more reasonable quotas, as well as better wages and benefits.

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