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A bill to curb Amazon’s use of productivity quotas has been passed by the California Senate, paving the way for the first regulation of its kind in the US.
Assembly Act 701 is aimed at all businesses that use warehouse labor, but lawmakers have targeted Amazon in particular, highlighting the company’s excessive injury rate compared to comparable workplaces.
The law will require all warehouse managers who use quotas to provide detailed descriptions of all targets employees are expected to meet – as well as the consequences for missing them. These quotas will have to be provided to employees and government agencies.
The law would prohibit quotas that required workers to skip or interrupt their mandatory meal or toilet breaks. In the event of disciplinary action, employees can request up to 90 days of productivity history to challenge the decision.
The bill was passed by the California lower house in May and by the Senate on Wednesday by 26 to 11 votes.
Pending final approval this week by the assembly, which is expected to be a formality, it will be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom’s office for ratification. He has not yet indicated whether he supports the bill.
AB 701’s successful passage through the Senate came despite fierce opposition from dozens of trade groups. A “No to AB 701” coalition had gathered 50 members, organizers said, from sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and auto parts.
“AB 701 is too broad a bill that will increase the cost of living for all Californians, destroy high-paying jobs and harm our fragile supply chain,” said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association.
“Everything we buy and use goes through the manufacturing, storage and distribution process. Whether it’s our food going from the farm to the fork or clothes from the thread to our closet, we will all pay the price for AB 701. Californian families can’t afford AB 701,” she added.
But supporters see the bill as groundbreaking in improving warehouse safety records that fuel consumers’ insatiable appetite for fast delivery.
According to figures filed with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Amazon injuries were more than double the national average in the warehousing industry.
“Based on its own data, Amazon’s security program is a disastrous failure,” said Eric Frumin, director of health and safety at the Strategic Organizing Center, a group backed by four unions.
In 2020, the group said for every 100 Amazon employees, there were nearly six “serious injuries” requiring time off or moving to lighter tasks.
“If Amazon complies with the law,” Frumin added, “employees now have an unparalleled ability to fight back against abusive workloads. The implications are huge for warehouse workers across California, as well as warehouse and logistics workers across the country. including drivers.”
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment after Wednesday’s vote.
It had previously said that several factors played a role in the decision to lay off an employee, of which productivity quotas were a small part.
In May, corporate health researchers said it had discovered “serious” security violations at a facility in Washington state Dupont — about 50 miles from Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.
“Workers are being pressured to maintain that pace without adequate recovery time,” the inspectors’ report said, stating there was a “direct link” between Amazon’s monitoring of its workforce and subsequent musculoskeletal disorders.
The company was fined $7,000.