New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition partners with NYS Labor Committee Chairs Sen. Jessica Ramos and Asm. Latoya Joyner on trailblazing legislation
NEW YORK, NY (April 29, 2022) — As voting begins for the Amazon Labor Union’s second warehouse election, workers are getting support from Albany in the form of the Warehouse Worker Protection Act. The New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition has partnered with Labor Committee Chairs State Senator Jessica Ramos (D, WF – SD13) and Assembly Member Latoya Joyner (D – AD 77) to introduce legislation limiting the algorithms and quotas regulating pace of work at Amazon warehouses, fulfillment centers, and other comparable facilities.
S8922/Assembly number forthcoming strengthens language in a similar bill that passed in the California Legislature in 2021 by providing workers with a private right of action against employers who set algorithm-driven quotas that injure their employees and by creating workplace safety committees under the NY HERO Act. Under the legislation, every warehouse will have an ergonomic assessment of all tasks, with penalties and enforcement mechanisms instituted with oversight by the New York State Department of Labor.
“My responsibility as Senate Labor Chair is to find every gap and opportunity that bad bosses use to cut corners on their employee’s health and safety, and swiftly close them. What we know is that in these warehouses, workers are contending with more than one bad boss. On one side, they’re pushing back against pervasive union-busting campaigns, and on the other, they are contending with write-ups and penalties from an opaque algorithm that can’t be bargained with,” said Senate Labor Chair Jessica Ramos. “These so-called productivity quotas do not allow for workers to comply with recommended ergonomic health and safety standards and contribute to a workplace injury rate that accelerates turnover. When we pass the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, we can ease the bargaining process for any worker in any warehouse or fulfillment center who is seeking to make collective demands for health and dignity in their workplace.”
“Protecting workers from the potential stress and physical injuries that they face as high-pressure quota systems become more commonplace in warehouses and distribution centers throughout New York, the Warehouse Worker Protection Act is a crucial workplace safety measure that I am proud to introduce in the Assembly,” said Assemblymember Latoya Joyner, chair of the Assembly Labor Committee. “Removing the incentives for e-commerce giants like Amazon to engage in unsafe practices, the Warehouse Worker Protection Act enhances workplace safety protections for thousands of New Yorkers and I look forward to enacting this important legislation.”
Warehouse and distribution center employees, primarily workers of color, are expected to complete a quantified number of tasks within specific time periods, often measured down to the minute or second, and face adverse employment action, including suspension or termination, if they fail to do so.
Warehouse workers in e-commerce suffer preventable injury rates at three times the average rate of other private industry in the state. As e-commerce has grown exponentially, this problem has compounded, particularly as it relates to musculoskeletal injuries from lifting and twisting with heavy boxes. These injuries often require workers to miss work and can force workers permanently out of the job and even out of the workforce. High injury rates are driven by abusive quotas that force workers to work harder and faster than their bodies can take, the absence of a standard to prevent musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace, and a predatory e-commerce industry that churns through workers with no regard for their well-being—Amazon has a rate of 150% turnover annually.
By directly addressing abusive quota systems and design hazards and their impact on worker health and safety, WWPA will make New York a leader in warehouse worker protections. Under the bill, workers would be required to implement an injury reduction plan in each workplace and undergo annual worksite evaluations by experts in the field. Workers would also be empowered to participate in the monitoring of health and safety standards and make recommendations, through NY HERO worker committees. And the NY Department of Labor would have new enforcement power to hold companies accountable for failure to protect warehouse worker health and safety. The bill covers warehouses with at least 50 employees in a single facility or more than 500 employees in the state.
“The RWDSU is proud to stand alongside coalition partners as well as with Senator Ramos and Assemblywoman Joyner to support the Warehouse Worker Protection Act. This bill will establish the model for the entire nation on warehouse worker safety; and it will send a clear message to Amazon and others that we can no longer tolerate their disregard for health and safety in the workplace,” Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU President.
“Amazon workers are speaking out and organizing because they need a voice on the job to protect themselves and their coworkers,” said Teamsters Joint Council 16 President Thomas Gesualdi. “Senator Ramos and Assemblymember Joyner’s legislation will help Amazon workers fight back against dangerous quotas and have a role in making their warehouses safer for workers. The Teamsters stand alongside Amazon workers in the fight for good jobs for all logistics workers.”
“It’s no coincidence that warehouse injuries have spiked as Amazon and other e-commerce giants rapidly expand across the state, lining their pockets at the expense of workers’ health and safety. We must put workers first, and New York can lead the way. ALIGN is proud to partner with Senator Ramos and Assemblymember Joyner on the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, trailblazing legislation that will empower workers and hold corporate abusers accountable.” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN NY, leader of the New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition.
“Amazon counts on worker turnover—they churn through their employees and inflict lasting physical damage as a cornerstone of their business model and delegate discipline to opaque algorithms. Algorithms make terrible bosses. NYCOSH is proud to stand with Senator Ramos, Assemblymember Joyner, and our partners in the labor movement in support of the Warehouse Worker Protection Act,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of NYCOSH.
Given Amazon Labor Union’s impending negotiations for their first collectively bargained contract, the bill sponsors are motivated to take swift action on this legislation.
About New Yorkers for a Fair Economy
New Yorkers for a Fair Economy (NYFE) is a coalition of labor organizations, small businesses, and immigrant and community organizations uniting to safeguard our communities from abusive practices of big corporations and achieve an economy that works for all New Yorkers. This coalition includes the frontline workers who care and provide for our communities, the small businesses that provide essential services that we need, the community organizations that protect the environment and the dignity of Black, brown, immigrant and gender-oppressed communities that make up our diverse state. NYFE is led by ALIGN (Alliance for a Greater New York) and includes labor unions Teamsters Joint Council 16, Retail Wholesale, and Department Store Union, UAW Region 9A; community groups New York Communities for Change, Make the Road New York, and Restaurant Opportunities Center New York; and national research and advocacy organizations Institute for Local Self Reliance, American Economic Liberties Project, and Strategic Organizing Center.