Labor unions are celebrating a bill signed into law yesterday in Washington state that offers new protections to warehouse workers, pushing back against fulfillment productivity quotas in the very state where e-commerce trendsetter Amazon first set the standard for lightning-fast delivery windows.
In a statement, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters commended Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and members of the state legislature for enacting House Bill 1762, an Act Relating to Protecting Employees of Warehouses (HB 1762).
"For far too long, warehouse workers have been risking grievous bodily harm in order to not lose their jobs, creating a sense of fear every time they clock in. These laws ensure that nobody shall be required to meet a quota that risks their health, safety, ability to take breaks, or even do something as simple as use the bathroom," John Scearcy, Teamsters Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer, said in a release.
The Teamsters made no secret of the political significance of passing the bill in the state where Seattle-based Amazon was founded in 1994. "We're extremely proud to have enacted this law in the birthplace of Amazon," Rick Hicks, Teamsters Western Region International Vice President and President of Teamsters Joint Council 28, said in a release. "Amazon has an injury rate that is twice the industry average and a turnover rate of 150 percent. HB 1762 is critical to making sure that the world's largest online retailer is held accountable for its inhumane, churn-and-burn business model."
Recent legal complaints leveled against Amazon have included Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) charges that the company’s workers run the risk of lower back injuries due to the frequency and weight of lifting packages. Amazon disputes those accusations, saying it has actually reduced injury rates through risk mitigation policies such as safety innovations, process improvements, and other investments.
Following the bill’s passage in Washington, the Teamsters say similar legislation is pending in 12 other states, and already passed last year in California and New York.
"We are bringing the fight to statehouses all across the country to make sure that multibillion-dollar conglomerates aren't lining their pockets by treating life-altering traumatic injuries as somebody else's problem," Tom Erickson, Teamsters Central Region International Vice President and Warehouse Division Director, said in a statement. "As more and more technology is implemented in the workplace to increasingly squeeze productivity, regulation like this becomes critical to ensuring employers are protecting the people responsible for their ever-increasing profit margins."