Labor Unions, Advocates Applaud NY State Senate for Passing Warehouse Safety Bill; Urge Assembly, Governor Hochul to Take Action
Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act would require warehouse worksites to be designed for safety over profit
ALBANY, NY (June 7, 2023) – Today, unions and advocates applauded the New York State Senate for passing the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act (WWIRA), legislation that will hold employers accountable for workplace safety and design warehouses to protect workers first. New Yorkers for a Fair Economy, the coalition of labor unions, policy advocates, and community organizations behind the bill, led by ALIGN, also urged the Assembly and Governor Hochul to take swift action to pass the legislation.
The Senate passed the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act (S5081/A03309) by a vote of 50-12. If passed into law, the bill—sponsored by State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Latoya Joyner—would prevent worksite injuries and hold warehouse companies responsible for worker health and safety by establishing an industry-wide NYS Warehouse Ergonomics Program. The bill would require employers to implement injury reduction plans to identify and minimize the most common hazards and undergo annual evaluations by certified ergonomists.
In the absence of federal standards requiring worksites to be engineered for worker safety, New York warehouse workers at companies like Amazon have experienced high rates of preventable injuries—four times more than the average New York worker. Lifting and twisting with heavy boxes can cause muscle strains, sprains, and tendonitis. These injuries are often serious, causing workers to miss time or need a job transfer, and have lifelong impacts on worker health. Through better job design, safety standards, comprehensive worker training, and improved on-site medical care, WWIRA will keep workers safe on the job and make warehouse work sustainable.
Last year, 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 protected breaks. The law takes effect on June 19, 2023.
“I’m proud that the Senate has continued to build on the work we started with last year’s Warehouse Worker Protection Act. The legislature needs to pass this bill in both houses so New York can modernize our labor laws to keep pace with rapidly increasing rates of injury. I’d like to thank Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins for her commitment to legislation that says definitively that New York does not view workers as disposable,” said Senator Jessica Ramos, Chair of the Senate Labor Committee and Senate sponsor of the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act.
“New York’s workers deserve protection from the stress and physical injuries they face as high-pressure quota systems become more commonplace in warehouses and distribution centers, and the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act is a crucial workplace safety measure that removes the incentives for e-commerce giants like Amazon to engage in unsafe practices,” Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner (D-Bronx, 77th AD), chair of the Assembly Labor Committee, said. “It is good news that the bill has passed in the Senate and I am working with advocates and my Assembly Majority colleagues to get it through the Assembly as soon as possible so we can enhance workplace safety protections for thousands of working New Yorkers.”
“Work shouldn’t hurt. Right now, New York is a frontrunner in Amazon’s race to the bottom, with some of the highest warehouse injury rates in the country. But we have a chance to set a new standard. The Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act is common-sense, nation-leading policy to design warehouses for worker safety, not just for the corporate bottom line. We applaud the New York State Senate for passing the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act and urge the New York State Assembly and Governor Hochul to join this critical effort,” said Lucas Shapiro, Interim Executive Director of ALIGN, leader of the New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition.
“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 four times as likely to be injured than workers in other private sector industries, and at Amazon warehouses it is even worse. That’s why we are pleased the NYS Senate just passed the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act (S.5081A), a bill that will address some of the worst abuses in the warehouse industry.”
“An injury at work can be devastating to a worker and their family; we as a union believe that every effort should be made to protect workers from harm while they are on the job. By passing the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act, the New York State Senate has demonstrated that they are taking this issue seriously, and that they are willing to listen to the needs of those who work every day to keep our state’s economy thriving,” said Tom Quackenbush, President of Teamsters Joint Council 18, which covers much of central and upstate New York.
“This bill goes a long way towards protecting the men and women who keep all of New York state running” said George Harrigan, President of Teamsters Joint Council 46, which covers western New York. “Warehouse workers play a critical role in keeping our supply chain moving. They keep our hospitals fully stocked with critical supplies, our grocery stores filled with fresh produce and food, and our entire economy running – these workers deserve to be safe on the job. The bill ensures that all warehouse workers have strong safety protections in place.”
“Amazon is undercutting the good jobs that Teamster members have fought for and won in the warehousing industry. When profits and productivity are prioritized over all else, workers pay the price. These injuries are preventable. We thank Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Senate Labor Chair Ramos, and other senators for passing this legislation, because all workers deserve to be safe on the job,” said Thomas Gesualdi, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16, which covers New York City and downstate.
“We applaud the New York State Senate and sponsoring Senator Ramos for passing the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act. We can no longer allow these companies to put profits and excessive production standards ahead of our safety. I’ve strained muscles in my back and shoulders from having to lift so many heavy packages in my warehouse. As a union we are able to fight back and hold our employer accountable, but Amazon is driving down safety standards across the industry. We need the Assembly to follow suit and pass this bill because all warehouse workers deserve safe jobs,” said Lennox James, a warehouse worker at UPS and member of Teamsters Local 804.
“We applaud Senate lawmakers for taking action to address dangerous flaws at warehouses that put tens of thousands of New Yorkers at risk of serious and disabling injuries. Requiring employers to modernize warehouse work and make straightforward, common sense fixes—such as installing adjustable height workstations, using electric pallet jacks, and allowing workers to rotate job tasks—is critical to resolving the injury crisis facing warehouse workers in the state,” said Irene Tung, Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst, National Employment Law Project.
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.