Worker Safety Coalitions Unite to Fight NY’s Injury Crisis
New Yorkers for a Fair Economy and TEMP bill coalitions call for swift action to protect workers in dangerous industries
ALBANY, NY (May 18, 2023) – Elected officials, unions, and advocates from the New Yorkers for a Fair Economy and TEMP Bill coalitions united in Albany today to hold a press conference calling for common-sense workplace safety legislation in dangerous industries like warehousing, agriculture, construction, and commercial trucking.
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. New York’s warehousing industry grew 14% in 2022, and workers in that industry—who are disproportionately Black and Latinx—experience serious injury at quadruple the rate of workers in any other industry in New York State (NELP). Amazon workers are injured at an even higher rate, with one in 12 full-time workers experiencing injury at Amazon’s New York warehouses, while upstate NY’s Rensselaer County Amazon facility ranked among the highest in worker injuries of all Amazon facilities nationally for the second year in a row.
Similarly, New Yorkers working in both outdoor and indoor sites are exposed to extreme temperatures due to climate change, including skyrocketing heat in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. Recent data shows that New York accounted for 14% of United States ice, sleet, and snow injuries (BLS), and in NYC, there are an estimated 450 heat-related ED visits, 150 heat-related hospital admissions, 10 heat stroke deaths, and 350 heat-exacerbated deaths, each year (NYC Mayor’s Office).
The coalitions are calling for the swift passage of the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act (WWIRA, S5081/A03309) and the Temperature Extreme Mitigation Program or TEMP bill (S1604A/A3321), both sponsored by State Senator Jessica Ramos (D, SD-13) and Assemblymember Latoya Joyner (D, AD-77), chairs of each chamber’s labor committee. Together, these bills would create workplace standards for safe warehouse design and heat and cold, respectively.
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 can have lifelong impacts on worker health. WWIRA seeks to 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. Through better job design, safety standards, comprehensive worker training, improved on-site medical care, and strong enforcement, WWIRA will keep workers safe on the job and make warehouse work sustainable.
The TEMP Bill would create a workplace standard for heat and cold covering workers in agriculture, construction, landscaping, commercial shipping, warehousing, and food service, indoor and outdoor, including vehicles. The legislation would require employers to establish an extreme temperature plan, provide multilingual education and training, and include access to hydration, relief and rest in warmth or cold, and employer-provided personal protective equipment (PPE). As weather becomes increasingly unpredictable throughout New York State, and New York City’s urban warming effect makes it even more vulnerable, the TEMP bill will protect workers most impacted by the climate crisis.
And crucially, in both cases, workers will be protected from retaliation.
“The rapidly growing warehouse and logistics sector of New York’s economy has created a proliferation of high-tech sweatshops. It is our responsibility as legislators to make sure our labor protections keep pace with the changing landscape of work,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos. “TEMP and the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Program are going to require that employers take worker safety seriously, rather than treating New York’s workforce as disposable.”
“Workplace injuries caused by rapid repetitive motions, or excessive heat or cold have had dangerous impacts upon the health of far too many working New Yorkers and, temperature stress has tragically even cost some workers their lives,” Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner (D-Bronx, 77th AD), chair of the Assembly Labor Committee, said. “These dangerous impacts upon workers could be avoided but some employers continue to drag their feet when it comes to addressing dangerous onsite working conditions. Combined with the TEMP Act, the Warehouse Workers Injury Reduction Act would ensure safer conditions for hardworking New Yorkers who are simply trying to make a living and feed their families.”
“The sad reality is, New York’s workers are getting hurt,” said Lucas Shapiro, Interim Executive Director of ALIGN, leader of the New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition. “Corporations are lining their pockets on the backs of workers, and it’s up to New York to hold them accountable. We’re proud to stand with the TEMP Bill coalition in our fight for dignity and justice in the workplace.”
“This session, our coalitions are joining forces to push for common sense worker safety legislation,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health and leader of the TEMP Bill coalition. “The TEMP Bill protects workers from extreme temperatures just as the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act protects workers from body-breaking labor. Workers are the backbone of this State and their health and safety must be protected.”
“Corporations like Amazon and UPS make billions of dollars in profits, and they do this by cheapening the lives of workers who are subjected to avoidable injuries and extreme temperatures,” said Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha. “We shouldn’t expect companies to stop doing so, to the maximum extent they’re allowed, out of kindness and good intentions. The legislature must step in and demand protections against such unsafe work conditions by passing the TEMP Bill and the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal said, “Productivity is important — but not at the expense of our laborers’ safety and for the profit of the wealthiest man on the planet. We should all be disturbed that Amazon’s warehouse injury rate is 40% higher than injury rates at other warehouses. Warehouse jobs are proliferating across our state, and New York will not stay silent while our workers are operating in unsafe conditions while Amazon’s owner is too busy dawdling in outer space. Albany must pass Senator Ramos’ much needed Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act to demonstrate our commitment to our constituents.”
Chris Cappadonna, Teamsters Local 804 member at UPS said, “Last summer, I went to the ER from delivering packages during a heat wave. I’ve also worked in the warehouse and know how important it is to design those facilities to keep workers safe. Two-day delivery isn’t worth risking the lives of the workers that make it possible. We are calling on the legislature to pass this package of bills and protect New York workers.”
“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 and agriculture, 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 agriculture workers are often forced to work in extreme temperatures without access to water or shade. That’s why we support two bills that will ensure workers who go to work healthy, come home healthy: The Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act (S.5081A) and The TEMP Act (S.1604B). These bills will address some of the worst abuses in these industries. We encourage the legislature to pass these bills without delay.”
“Every worker deserves a safe workplace; it is a fundamental right that we must protect,” said Assemblymember Gina L. Sillitti. “These bills will help ensure that New York continues to do all it can to protect the livelihood of all workers from extreme conditions. I want to thank the sponsors, ALIGN NY, and my brothers and sisters in labor for fighting for their passage.”
“As economic conditions change, one thing remains constant: The need for hard working men and women in dangerous industries such as warehousing, agriculture, construction, and commercial trucking,” noted Assemblyman Joseph DeStefano (R-C-Medford). “The need to protect these workers must also be constant. The TEMP Bill and the Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act are common-sense workplace safety measures and l fully support them to protect our most important resource: the workers who come in everyday and get the job done.”
“We need to prioritize people over packages,” said Stan Koniszewski, Business Agent,
Teamsters Local 294. “Companies like Amazon are growing rapidly and leaving injured workers in their wake. We need the legislature to act on both of these bills so all workers are safe from dangerous temperatures on the job and protected from injuries in the expanding warehouse sector.”
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.
About the TEMP Bill coalition
The TEMP Bill Coalition, formed in 2022 by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), is a coalition of unions and worker organizations advocating for extreme temperature protection in New York State. Coalition members include La Colmena, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, the New York State Teamsters, Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), RWDSU Local 338, and Worker Justice Center.