California Governor Gavin Newsom this week signed a bill aimed at protecting warehouse workers from unsafe quotas. The bill, which cites issues around bathroom breaks, rest periods and other safety laws, has been seen as a repudiation of longstanding complaints against workplace conditions at Amazon fulfillment centers.
Introduced by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez in February, the bill is designed to increase the transparency of quotas imposed on employees at warehouse distribution centers. Under the law, employers are required to inform workers of speed quotas. The legislation is also designed to mitigate punitive retaliation for not meeting quotas, including skipping breaks.
“This bill would provide that if a current or former employee believes that meeting a quota caused a violation of their right to a meal or rest period or required them to violate any occupational health and safety law or standard,” it reads, in part, “they have the right to request, and the employer is required to provide, a written description of each quota to which the employee is subject and a copy of the most recent 90 days of the employee’s own personal work speed data.”
The legislation was the most prominent in a list of 33 bills signed by the embattled Governor, along with a pair of vetos. In statement tied to the news, Newsom commented,
We cannot allow corporations to put profit over people. The hardworking warehouse employees who have helped sustain us during these unprecedented times should not have to risk injury or face punishment as a result of exploitative quotas that violate basic health and safety. I’m proud to sign this legislation giving them the dignity, respect and safety they deserve and advancing California’s leadership at the forefront of workplace safety.
For her part, Gonzalez has been more direct about the bill’s intended impact on Amazon, citing the company’s track record in a statement released following the Governor’s signing.
“Amazon’s business model relies on enforcing inhumane work speeds that are injuring and churning through workers at a faster rate than we’ve ever seen. Workers aren’t machines. We’re not going to allow a corporation that puts profits over workers’ bodies to set labor standards back decades just for ‘same-day delivery,’” Gonzales writes. “This bill is simply about giving workers some basic dignity back and empowering them to keep themselves safe.”
In recent years, Amazon fulfillment centers have been a flash point for worker unionization efforts. Most recently, workers at one of the company’s Alberta fulfillment centers filed to hold a union vote, with a representative for Teamsters Canada calling the company, “profoundly anti-worker.”