California law focusing on warehouse labor issues is due to be put to a vote in the state Senate this week. If this were to become law, the legislation could require other warehousing companies to make significant changes as well. Bill AB-701, passed by the National Assembly in May, would force warehouse operators like Amazon to be transparent about the quotas their workers are expected to meet.
“The bill stipulates that employees will not be required to meet a quota that prevents compliance with the period of meals or rest, use of the bathroom or the law on safety at work,” the bill reads. The law also seeks to prohibit employers from punishing employees who do not meet quotas that do not allow them to take breaks or adhere to health and safety rules. If workers can’t realistically meet Amazon’s productivity expectations, the company may have to cut quotas in the state.
Several Amazon workers have talked about pre- or reducing bathroom breaks to make sure they meet quotas. According to reports, the company’s expectations lead many delivery drivers to coffee cups instead of taking the time to go to the toilet. Warehouse workers shared similar complaints. Amazon closely monitors worker productivity, including how long each employee spends.
An Amazon spokesman told The New York Times that “interruptions due to performance problems are rare,” but did not directly comment on the bill.
Last year, that Amazon reportedly expected workers to scan 400 items per hour at filling centers that use robots. According to a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting, the rate of serious injuries sustained in those warehouses was 50 percent higher than in Amazon’s non-automated warehouses.
Storage Injury Researcher Edward Flores, director of the Center for Community and Labor at the University of California, Merced, told USA that repetitive stress injuries are a problem in automated warehouses. Workers “react to the speed at which the machine moves”, which leads to “a higher frequency of repetitive movements, and thus repetitive injuries,” said Dr. Flowers.
Amazon announced in May some measures aimed at reducing injuries in the warehouse. The plans also included where workers could stretch, as well as hourly “mind and body” instructions.
The company has a long history of controversial work practices. Earlier this year, Amazon closed a warehouse in Chicago where workers were leaving and protesting for better working conditions. Some of these employees said they work between 10-hour shifts at the cemetery at other centers to fulfill or find a new job. At the time, Amazon denied that was the case.
In August, a National Labor Relations Committee official recommended workers at the Amazon warehouse in Alabama to hold another union vote. The union of retailers, wholesalers and department stores has accused Amazon of violating labor laws by interfering in the process. Workers in the fulfillment center.
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