California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law Wednesday protecting warehouse workers from harsh quota systems.
While the bill’s language did not directly mention Amazon, its author believes the company’s fulfillment centers are forcing many workers to delay restroom breaks, skip safety procedures and neglect other basic needs for fear of termination.
The new law, AB 701, did not impact Amazon’s stock price Wednesday afternoon, which was trading at $3,425, $44 above the opening bell.
The Seattle, Washington-based e-commerce company has at least five fulfillment centers in California employing thousands of warehouse workers.
Amazon distribution employees are allowed six minutes of time off-task, or spent away from their workstations, per day in addition to a 30-minute meal break. Workers claim at some facilities the nearest restroom in the giant warehouses are 10 or more minutes away from their working area.
Amazon did not respond to Capital.com’s questions, but the company said it does set performance expectations for employees and monitors worker performance.
The bill’s sponsor, state legislator Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat from San Diego, said the bill is about Amazon placing profits over people.
“Amazon is pushing workers to risk their bodies for next-day delivery, while they can’t so much as use the restroom without fearing retaliation. We can't allow corporations to get rich off of the injuries of their workforce,” she said in a statement.
By signing the bill into law, Newsom said California is protecting workers’ rights.
“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,” Newsom said.
Amazon has come under attack before over how it treats its employees, including for being slow to install Covid-19 protection at its warehouses.
Bad for business
Business trade groups voiced strong opposition to the law, claiming it will hinder supply chains, increase the cost of living and eliminate jobs.
“With California’s ports facing record backlogs of ships waiting off the coast and inflation spiking to the fastest pace in 13 years, AB 701 will make matters worse for everyone – creating more backordered goods and higher prices for everything from clothes, diapers and food to auto parts, toys and pet supplies,” the California Retailer’s Association said in a statement.