In the second newsletter issue of 2022, we reported that employees in an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York voted to unionize. This week, the National Labor Relations Board rejected Amazon’s claims that union organizers improperly influenced the union vote. Amazon is expected to appeal the decision but it is likely Amazon will have to recognize its first unionized warehouse in the United States.
This unionization effort is in large part a response to significant concerns about working conditions in warehouses operated by Amazon and other companies. Now, the State of New York has responded to these same concerns with new legislation.
On December 30, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Warehouse Worker Protection Act (“WWPA”) into law. The WWPA is modeled after a pre-existing California Law and it requires employers such as Amazon to provide newly hired and current warehouse employees written notice of any production quotas an employee must meet. Also, the WWPA prohibits employers from requiring quotas that prevent employees from taking breaks, resting, or using the bathroom.
Amazon is accused of using algorithms to track employee productivity rates. If an employee takes too long to accomplish a task or to return from a break, the highly intelligent system recognizes the loss of time and generates a warning to the employee. These warnings can eventually lead to dismissal. According to warehouse workers, the threat of these warnings and eventual dismissal have unreasonably heightened their stress levels. Further, warehouse workers claim the extended, fast pace of work in the warehouses have resulted in a higher number of workplace injuries.
The New York law takes aim at restricting and regulating the quota system in place in warehouses across the state. This law is unquestionably a victory for warehouse employees.
For the text of the WWPA, visit https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/A10020.