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NY’s Most Dangerous Warehouse is 15 Minutes from State Capitol, with nearly 1 serious injury for every 5 workers

New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition is fighting for $5 million in the budget for the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act to combat NY’s warehouse safety crisis

ALBANY, NY (January 17, 2024) – Today, unions and advocates in the New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition responded to Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget by releasing a list of the most dangerous Amazon warehouses in New York — evidence of the state’s ever-escalating warehouse safety crisis as the e-commerce industry continues to surge. According to analysis from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), Amazon’s ALB1 distribution center in Schodack, NY, just 15 minutes from the Capitol, tops the list of dangerous large warehouses with an injury rate of 18.8 per 100 workers, or nearly one injury for every five workers. That amounts to about 165 workers experiencing serious injury in a single year. 

The coalition is calling for $5 million in the 2024 NYS budget to implement the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act (S5081/A03309) and address the state’s rampant warehouse safety crisis. 

The list demonstrates that New York’s warehouse injury crisis goes from very bad to atrocious, and even when injury rates appear lower, the numbers remain severe; a rate of injury of 11.1 per 100 workers at a facility outside of Syracuse amounts to more than 200 injuries per year. And in all of the worst Amazon warehouses, a supermajority of injured workers end up missing work or requiring a job transfer because of the severity of the injury. 

Warehouse workers are injured four times more than the average New York worker, and at Amazon facilities overall, 1 in 12 workers are injured on the job. Lifting and twisting with heavy boxes can cause muscle strains, sprains, and tendonitis. All of these injuries reported to OSHA are serious enough to require some medical attention. The most serious of these injuries cause workers to miss time or need a job transfer, and can have lifelong impacts on worker health while employers experience high turnover and New York’s healthcare and workers’ comp systems are further burdened. 

The coalition — led by ALIGN and including the Retail Wholesale & Department Store Union (RWDSU), Teamsters, NELP, and NYCOSH, among others — is fighting for $5 million in the 2024 NY state budget to implement 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.

In 2022, the coalition won the Warehouse Worker Protection Act (WWPA), bringing transparency to exploitative productivity quotas in the warehouse industry and ensuring they do not conflict with meal and restroom breaks. But if work is unsafe, just making it transparent won’t prevent injuries. WWIRA is the necessary next step to protect thousands of warehouse workers. With better job design, safety standards, training, and enforcement, WWIRA can keep workers safe and make this growing industry sustainable. 

“When a worker gets injured, it does not just destabilize their life, it ripples out to the lives of their communities and the people who depend on them. Mega-corporations like Amazon have been allowed to accumulate profit literally off the back of workers. The legislature has a responsibility to make warehouse work a safe way to earn a living. We want to give the Department of Labor the tools they need to make sure Amazon is a responsible employer, and the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act is just the latest iteration of that effort,” said Senator Jessica Ramos (D, SD-13), Chair of the Senate Labor Committee and Sponsor of WWIRA.

“Governor Hochul can secure a common-sense win for New York with just $5 million in the budget — a small price to pay for worker safety and a fraction of her record-setting Executive Budget,” said Theodore A. Moore, ALIGN Executive Director. “Warehouse safety is a crisis across New York, from Albany to the Hudson Valley to the Governor’s hometown of Buffalo, and we cannot stand by while workers sacrifice their bodies on the job. With bipartisan support, the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act is critical and achievable, and we urge our state leaders to get it done this year to protect the thousands of warehouse workers who power our great state.”

“New York must step up to guarantee that no warehouse workers have to face dangerous conditions  to make ends meet. The Amazon Labor Union has made great strides in raising awareness about the current safety conditions in warehouses nationwide, and this bill will help address these issues at the root of the problem. The Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act is our solution to ensuring warehouses prioritize the safety of their workers. I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation and help play a part in ensuring every warehouse worker returns home safely,” said Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton.

“Workplace health and safety is a top priority for our union,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “Organizing workers in warehousing, we have seen first-hand what happens when employers prioritize the bottom line rather than workers’ lives. Warehouse workers are five times as likely to be injured on the job than workers in other private sector industries, and at Amazon warehouses it is even worse. That’s why we are fighting alongside our partners in the Senate and Assembly to pass the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act (S.5081A/A.3309A), a bill that will address some of the worst abuses in the warehouse industry.”

“Nothing in our capitalist economy is designed around the needs of humans, and that includes warehouses. Our warehouses are designed for how many things you can pack in a room, they’re not designed for the health of the human who needs to bend and stretch, who is likely to miss time or need a job transfer if they get injured, who can’t afford to permanently leave the workforce, or who might never be able to work the same again because they suffered long lasting injuries. And compared to your average warehouse, this is even more so the case with corporations like Amazon that make billions of dollars and see workers as completely disposable. So we’re here today to demand that we design our work spaces around the needs of humans, not boxes. To demand we allocate $5 million in this year’s budget to implement the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act — all things considered, a very small price to pay for worker safety. Amazon is nothing without its workers, and neither is New York,” said Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha.

“New York’s warehousing industry has grown heavily in the past decade,” said Assemblymember Christopher W. Eachus, 99th District. “But at the same time, workplace injuries have skyrocketed to four times the rate of any other industry. That’s just not right, and it’s time to step in and address this crisis. The legislature can take simple, common-sense steps to make New York a better and safer place to work. Alongside my colleagues in Albany, I’ll fight to protect our workers.”

“Thankfully, New York has a vibrant economy that sees massive amounts of goods pass through warehouses as they make their way to the end consumer. This supply chain requires employees to make it work, and these workers, a valuable asset to any company, must be protected,” said Assemblyman Joseph DeStefano (R—Medford). “We need the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act to make sure these employees stay healthy. Let’s keep New York going strong by protecting the people who keep commerce moving.”

“Teamsters have fought for generations to make warehousing a safe and family-sustaining job. We won’t let Amazon turn this into a dangerous industry. The Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act will hold warehouse employers to a high standard to protect New York workers and will provide funding to make sure it is enforced,” said Thomas Gesualdi, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16.

“It is of the utmost importance that hard-working warehouse workers throughout the State of New York have safe working conditions. Unsafe working conditions harm not only the person injured, but they also reduce productivity and raise costs. That doesn’t make sense for New York. I am proud to stand with organized labor and warehouse workers to support the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act, which will ensure warehouses protect workers first,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

“New York must protect warehouse workers by passing the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act, which would help modernize warehouse work and bring safety experts into New York’s warehouses to recommend straightforward, common sense fixes—such as raising shelves to knee height, installing adjustable height workstations, using electric pallet jacks, and allowing workers to rotate job tasks,” said Irene Tung, Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst, National Employment Law Project.

“Warehouse workers perform critical work that New Yorkers rely on — but are often left in unsafe conditions while doing intensive and dangerous manual labor. Meanwhile, corporations like Amazon rake in record setting profits off the backs of these workers. For the Many calls on the state legislature to allocate $5 million in the 2024 budget to fully fund and implement the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act, to empower the Department of Labor to protect these workers. It’s time for the legislature to stand with workers, over the needs and interests of greedy corporations,” said Brahvan Ranga, Political Director, For the Many.

“Many times, injured workers miss time or must permanently leave the workforce. This can place a heavy burden on coworkers that then are made to overproduce, resulting in more unsafe conditions. The Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act is the necessary next step in providing the safe environment all workers deserve,” said Tim Barbeto, President, Teamsters Local 118.

“Amazon’s safety record in their warehouses is shameful, and the NYS legislature must act now to prevent workers from being needlessly injured because the company is prioritizing line speed over the wellbeing of their employees,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

“Teamsters are truck drivers and warehouse workers to the core, and this bill will ensure the right ergonomics approach will be set as standard for the warehouse workers of New York state and protect our members,” said Stan Koniszewski, Teamsters Local 294.

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.