California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill that restricts the ability of retailers such as Amazon to enforce production quotas on warehouse workers, a move hailed by labor advocacy groups but opposed by business organizations as needless and burdensome.
The measure, called AB 701, was approved by the state Assembly earlier in the month and signed into law by Newsom on Sept. 23. The law, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, bars mega-retailers such as Amazon from firing or retaliating against warehouse workers for missing quotas that interfere with bathroom and rest breaks.
It also requires greater transparency related to production quotas, with large warehouse employers having to disclose quotas to workers within 30 days and provide authorities with detailed descriptions of productivity goals that workers are expected to meet.
The law, which applies to all warehouse distribution centers, also allows employees to sue to suspend unsafe quotas or reverse retaliation.
“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,” Newsom said in a statement.
The measure was authored by Democrat Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a lawyer and former labor leader, who accused Amazon of disciplining warehouse workers at the direction of “an algorithm” that tracks employees’ activities and can determine that anything not directly related to moving packages is “off-task.”
“We’ve heard disturbing stories of back-breaking working conditions in Amazon warehouses that use algorithms to enforce dangerous work speeds,” Gonzalez said in a statement following the bill’s passage by the Legislature.
“Amazon is pushing workers to risk their bodies for next-day delivery, while they can’t so much as use the restroom without fearing retaliation. AB 701 gives workers the tools and protections necessary to be able to speak up and seek real relief against the health and safety abuses they’ve experienced in these warehouses,” she said.
Amazon officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on AB 701.
By Tom Ozimek