New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed into law a bill Wednesday that aims to crack down on strict warehouse work quotas at companies like Amazon.
The law, known as the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, requires distribution centers to disclose work speed data to their employees so they can better understand their productivity rate and company expectations. It also prohibits companies from firing workers because they didn’t meet quotas that weren’t transparent or didn’t allow enough time to rest and go to the bathroom.
The law applies to any company with a large distribution center in the state, but the most obvious target is Amazon. The Seattle-based online retail giant is the largest employer of warehouse employees in the country. Workers have long complained the pressure to “make a fee” and avoiding discipline when picking, packing, and shipping orders to customers.
Kelly Nantell, a Amazon spokesperson, said in a statement that the bill was “based on a misunderstanding of our business performance metrics.”
“Amazon does not have fixed quotas in our facilities. Instead, we assess performance against safe and achievable expectations, taking into account time and tenure, peer performance, and adherence to safe work practices,” Nantel said.
Hochul said in a statement that she was proud to sign the bill just before the holidays, the busiest time of the year for many stores, as retailers like Amazon fill a large number of orders.
“All New York State workers deserve to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect,” Hochul said.
The mirrors of the New York law another bill it became law in California last year. That legislation was the first of its kind in the country to explicitly target warehouse labor quotas.
The new law in New York was supported by the Amazon Labor Union, which formed the first Amazon union in the US on Staten Island earlier this year, and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, a union based in New York who has tried to organize an Amazon facility in Alabama.
A recent analysis by the union coalition known as the Center for Strategic Organizing found that Amazon’s injury rate was twice as tall like other non-Amazon warehouses. Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it was issuing citations to several Amazon facilities for failing to properly record injuries and report them to OSHA.
Those OSHA inspections occurred because of a referral from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which is investigating workplace safety practices at the company.
State Sen. Jessica Ramos, who sponsored the New York bill, called it “the first step in addressing rampant injuries in a fast-growing job sector.”
“We have ensured that corporations like Amazon and UPS cannot squeeze all the profits they can from their employees, leaving the workers to deal with their injuries,” Ramos said in a statement.
New York lawmakers are also seeking a new bill end the “at will” employment of many workers. To fire a worker, an employer must show “just cause,” such as the worker’s misconduct or economic necessity for the firings. A similar law is already in place for fast food workers in New York City.
This story has been updated with a comment from Amazon.