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NY Unions, Advocates Celebrate Intro of Federal Warehouse Safety Legislation; Call for Action in NY

New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition is pushing to pass the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act 

ALBANY, NY – Today, unions and advocates from the New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition cheered federal action on warehouse safety, with the introduction of new legislation from Senator Ed Markey to protect warehouse workers and reduce injuries on the job. The federal Warehouse Worker Protection Act is comprehensive legislation that would regulate exploitative productivity quotas, limit worker surveillance, secure workplace rights, and establish national ergonomic standards for warehouse safety. The coalition also renewed the call to pass the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act to urgently address the injury crisis at scale. 

New York has been a leader in advancing legislation to protect warehouse workers and holding corporate employers accountable, but much work remains. In 2022, the coalition — led by ALIGN and including the Retail Wholesale & Department Store Union (RWDSU), Teamsters, NELP, and NYCOSH, among others — won the Warehouse Worker Protection Act (WWPA), giving workers access to exploitative productivity quota information and ensuring quotas do not conflict with meal and restroom breaks. 

But warehousing remains the most dangerous industry in the state, with one in 11 warehouse workers injured on the job. New York’s warehouse worker injury rate is also a staggering 54% higher than the national average. The most serious injuries cause workers to miss time or transfer jobs, and can have lifelong impacts on worker health while employers experience high turnover. The introduction of a federal bill builds on state legislation introduced in New York, California, New Jersey, Washington, and Connecticut, and represents growing, nationwide momentum for stronger protections for warehouse workers as legislators wake up to Amazon’s impacts on the industry. 

A new report released today presents data on the central role that Amazon plays in the problem of warehouse worker injuries in the U.S., showing both Amazon’s dominance in the warehousing sector and that Amazon workers sustain more frequent injuries and more serious injuries than other companies in the warehousing sector operating large facilities. Among U.S. general warehousing and storage facilities with at least 1,000 workers, Amazon represents 79% of employment and 86% of all injuries.

Now, the coalition is fighting to pass the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act (WWIRA, S5081/A03309). The bill would require warehouses to be designed for safety first, with mandated annual evaluations by ergonomics experts to identify hazards and assign fixes. Fixes may be simple, such as providing dollies for heavy loads or raising a shelf several feet so that workers don’t have to bend over repeatedly. Governor Hochul and NYS leadership can hold employers accountable for their negligence by requiring warehouses to be designed for safety before profit and ensure that workers have safe conditions on the job.

“As the prevalence of the warehouse sector grew, states like New York have stepped up to try and get the escalating injuries under control. A uniform, federal standard would be so helpful in our efforts to try and level the playing field between employers who want to escape their responsibility for managing a safe working environment and states’ desires to protect their working families. I applaud Senator Markey for championing warehouse worker protections in the Senate,” said New York State Senator Jessica Ramos (D – Queens), Chair of the Senate Committee on Labor and sponsor of the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act.

“As Assembly Labor Chair, I am thrilled to see national attention brought to the safety of America’s warehouse workers with the introduction of the WWPA in Congress, and proud to sponsor coinciding legislation, the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act, in the New York State Assembly. Warehouse work has emerged as one of the fastest growing industries in our country, yet little attention is paid to the safety and security of these workers. By joining together to raise awareness through legislation, we are well on our way to impacting the change required to set industry standards around warehouse work that will protect workers and set fair precedents around the demands of these jobs,” said Assemblymember Harry Bronson (Rochester, NY).

“As long as e-commerce reigns and corporations put profit over people, warehouse workers will keep getting hurt,” said Theodore A. Moore, Executive Director of ALIGN, leader of the New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition. “We’re proud of the work we’ve done to regulate warehouse safety in New York and bring attention to a nationwide worker injury crisis, but the crisis is only growing. Now is the time to take decisive action. We applaud Senator Markey’s leadership on federal warehouse safety legislation and urge Governor Hochul to secure New York’s legacy as a leader in worker protections by championing the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act.”

“Warehousing is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. and one of the most dangerous,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “Building on our groundbreaking organizing campaign at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama warehouse, the RWDSU has been fighting to pass legislation to address the growing crisis of warehouse worker injuries. While we have successfully passed crucial legislation in New York, what is clear is there needs to be a federal standard to protect warehouse workers and create a level playing field for the industry nationwide. The tens of thousands of injuries each year in warehouses throughout our country have an impact on our families, our communities, the Workers’ Comp system, and even factor into the tragic opiate crisis. It’s why we’re urging the legislature and Governor Hochul to pass the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act in New York, and it’s why we fully support Senator Markey’s groundbreaking national legislation. We look forward to a future where warehouse workers don’t have to choose between having a job or being injured.”

“New York became a national leader in warehouse worker safety by passing the Warehouse Worker Protection Act two years ago. Today’s introduction of the WWPA in Congress is the next step in tackling the national safety crisis that Amazon is fueling in this quickly growing industry. The federal bill builds on New York’s law by also including the provisions of the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act that is currently before New York lawmakers. The time is now for New York to again lead the nation and pass the strongest warehouse worker protections in the country,” said Thomas Gesualdi, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16.

“Amazon is responsible for the lion’s share of serious injuries in the warehousing industry. We applaud the co-sponsors of the Warehouse Worker Protection Act for bringing attention to Amazon’s continued failure to change its practices and end preventable worker injuries in its warehouses,” said Rebecca Dixon, President and CEO, National Employment law Project.

“Warehouses are prone to ergonomic hazards and slip and fall injuries, and establishing regulations is essential to protecting workers’ safety and health. Today, we applaud Congress for following New York’s lead and introducing groundbreaking federal legislation to protect warehouse workers throughout the country,” said Charlene Obernauer, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).

About New Yorkers for a Fair Economy
New Yorkers for a Fair Economy (NYFE) is a coalition of labor unions, small businesses, and immigrant and community organizations uniting to safeguard our state from the abusive practices of big corporations and achieve an economy that works for all New Yorkers. NYFE is led by ALIGN (Alliance for a Greater New York) and includes labor unions Teamsters Joint Council 16 and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; community groups like New York Communities for Change and New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health; and research and advocacy organizations like National Employment Law Project and Strategic Organizing Center, among others.