✅ Taking on Amazon’s warehouse quotas

Protestors project the words "Amazon respect, protect and pay warehouse workers #humansnotrobots" onto the shrubs outside Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' house during a Prime Day protest on Oct. 13, 2020. Photo by Tash Kimmell for CalMatters
Protestors project the words “Amazon respect, protect and pay warehouse workers #humansnotrobots” onto the shrubs outside Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ house during a Prime Day protest on Oct. 13, 2020. Photo by Tash Kimmell for CalMatters

By Jackie Botts

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

AB 701 would make California the first state to require warehouses to disclose to workers any quotas or work speed standards, as well as the potential consequences for failing to meet them. It would also ban companies from penalizing warehouse workers for complying with health and safety laws that slow the pace of their work — including taking breaks, using the bathroom or following COVID-19 precautions.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Introduced by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat famous for introducing controversial labor legislation, the bill is backed by a long list of unions, worker centers and legal nonprofits that represent workers.

WHO’S OPPOSED

Local and statewide chambers of commerce oppose the bill, along with numerous business associations representing retailers, grocers, farmers, manufacturers and truckers. They argue that existing law already protects workers, and that the bill could open employers to costly lawsuits and limit their options to deal with underperforming workers. The California Chamber of Commerce, however, took the bill off of its “job killer” list after several amendments.

WHY IT MATTERS

Though it would apply to all warehouses, this bill takes particular aim at Amazon as online shopping has surged during the pandemic. The e-commerce giant has expanded its California operations, especially in the Inland Empire. Amazon has notoriously high rates of worker injuryin Fresno, the rate was three times the national warehouse average in 2018 — and was sued by the state over allegedly refusing to cooperate with an investigation into COVID-19 safety at warehouses. If passed, the law could have national ripple effects on how companies track and use worker productivity data.

GOVERNOR’S CALL: ✅

In signing the bill on Sept. 22, Newsom issued a statement saying,“We cannot allow corporations to put profit over people. The hardworking warehouse employees who have helped sustain us during these unprecedented times should not have to risk injury or face punishment as a result of exploitative quotas that violate basic health and safety.”