How the NY HERO Act Will Protect Amazon’s Workers
Key Findings and Highlights of this Report
- Amazon made $21.3 billion in net profits and $386 billion in net sales in 2020. Meanwhile almost 20,000 Amazon workers have contracted COVID-19 and at least ten workers have died, as reported thus far.
- In New York and nationally, Amazon’s e-commerce warehouse associates are getting injured more frequently, and seriously, while on the job. This trend has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Enforceable workplace standards can mean the difference between life and death. The NY HERO Act would be the first state law in the country to require all businesses, including Amazon, to adopt permanent and enforceable workplace standards to protect workers against the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne infectious diseases.
- Thousands of Amazon’s warehouse workers would be among the biggest beneficiaries of the NY HERO Act. If implemented quickly and aggressively, the NY HERO Act will function as an effective workplace safety law for thousands of New Yorkers employed by Amazon.
In 2020, Amazon’s e-commerce operations saw rapid growth with a record 84 percent increase in its net profits and over $386 billion in net sales. 1 During this same period, nearly 20,000 Amazon workers contracted COVID-19, and at least ten workers died from complications related to the virus as reported thus far. 2 3 4
In the absence of enforceable health and safety standards, Amazon was able to set high efficiency targets to yield large profits at the expense of their workers’ health. Reports show Amazon has caused serious worker injuries and death; disincentivized workers from following hygiene, sanitation, social-distancing, and other safety protocols; and engaged in union-busting and retaliation efforts to curb safety activism.5 6 The world witnessed Amazon’s brutal anti-union tactics when workers tried to form a union in Bessemer, Alabama – an effort that was motivated in part because of concerns over health and safety issues during the pandemic. As Amazon’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis came to light, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the e-commerce giant, alleging Amazon’s “flagrant disregard for health and safety requirements has threatened serious illness and grave harm to the thousands of workers in these facilities and poses a continued substantial and specific danger to the public health.” 7
Others also took action against Amazon over the past year.
At the start of the pandemic, the NY Essential Workers coalition, a group of over 70 labor unions, community groups, workers leaders, and advocates, formed to secure health and safety worker protections across industries and occupations. The coalition is behind the recent passage of the NY HERO Act – the first state law in the country that would require all businesses, including Amazon, to adopt permanent enforceable health and safety standards to protect workers against the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne infectious diseases.
Frontline workers, especially those at Amazon, continue to risk their lives to protect New York and help the economy re-open safely. But as COVID variants continue to spread, vaccines alone will not be enough to fully protect all workers and their communities. Indeed, COVID vaccines are not a substitute for enforceable workplace health and safety protections that the NY HERO Act will provide.
This report highlights how Amazon’s e-commerce warehouse employees in New York will be among the biggest beneficiaries of the workplace health and safety protections the NY HERO Act will create. But the law cannot be implemented until Governor Cuomo signs it. That’s why Amazon workers and other frontline essential workers across New York are urging Cuomo to sign the NY HERO Act immediately, and implement it as part of COVID recovery efforts.