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New York Enacts Legislation to Protect Warehouse Workers

New York’s warehouse workers will soon see new protections against work-speed quotas.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has signed the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, which aims to guard warehouse employees against performance quotas deemed unreasonable or overly-demanding. The law will require distribution centers to disclose historical productivity data to both current and former staff as a means of informing them about their performance and their rights in the workplace. The legislation also protects workers against disciplinary actions, including termination, because of failures to meet undisclosed speed quotas or quotas that do not allow for proper breaks.

“Every worker in New York State deserves to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect,” Gov. Hochul said. “As we celebrate the holidays with gifts and packages, I’m proud to sign the Warehouse Worker Protection Act into law to expand protections for hardworking warehouse employees.”

“By bringing the Warehouse Worker Protection Act across the finish line, we have made sure that corporations like Amazon and UPS can’t wring all the profits they can out of their employees, leaving the workers to deal with their injuries,” State Sen. Jessica Ramos added, noting that Amazon Labor Union was consulted during the process of building support for the legislation. “This is the first step in addressing rampant injury in a quickly growing job sector, and I look forward to continuing the work with my partners in the labor movement next session,” she added.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) pushed for the introduction of the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, president Stuart Appelbaum said. “The RWDSU has long prioritized protecting warehouse workers from stress induced injuries and illness from limitless quotas,” he added.

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The timing of the law’s passage comes at a moment where warehouses and distribution centers are “popping up across New York at staggering numbers.” Amazon has opened over 70 facilities in the state, and over half have been built since January 2021. Appelbaum said injury rates have also increased, from heart attacks to strokes, repetitive motion injuries and chronic pain.

Amazon has faced mounting scrutiny in recent years due to rumblings about working conditions and safety issues at its warehouses. In July, following the death of an employee at one of the company’s New Jersey locations, OSHA began an investigation into the cause of death. A civil investigation of Amazon’s warehouses and distribution centers across the U.S. was also launched by federal prosecutors in New York over the summer, along with a separate probe by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York into workplace safety, speed quotas and reporting of on-the-job injuries.

New York’s decision “strengthens a national movement to thwart corporate power and challenge Amazon’s rampant abuse,” according to ALIGN and New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition executive director Maritza Silva-Farrell. “Across the country, people are fed up with the skyrocketing cost of living and deteriorating working conditions,” and the Warehouse Worker Protection Act brings more “transparency” to the relationship between workers and employers. “We can build on it by creating injury prevention programs that design warehouses to protect workers first,” she added.