In a victory for worker protections and rights, lawmakers in the U.S. state of Minnesota have joined California and New York in passing legislation to enhance safeguards for warehouse employees, particularly those working for companies like Amazon. The legislation, supported by a coalition including worker centre Awood, comes as a response to mounting proof that excessive productivity quotas are leading to unsafe and overly stressful conditions within the industry, causing workers to skip breaks and increasing the risk of injury.
Under the bill, employers must provide warehouse workers with written descriptions of any quotas, along with comprehensive information about performance evaluations and consequences of failing to meet production targets. Companies cannot fire workers who have not been informed of the quota requirements. Additionally, the legislation explicitly prohibits productivity quotas that keep workers from taking necessary breaks.
The bill also gives the state the ability to investigate employers, like Amazon, with injury rates exceeding 30 per cent compared to industry peers. Earlier this year, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that “Amazon exposed workers to unsafe conditions and ergonomic hazards” leading to “serious worker injuries” in several warehouses. A Strategic Organizing Center study uncovered that the injury rate at Amazon facilities increased by 20 percent between 2020 and 2021.
Laws similar to this Minnesota bill were discussed in UNI Global Union’s recent report Algorithmic Management: Opportunities for Collective Action, which discusses real world solutions to the abuses made possible through algorithmic management.
Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, welcomed the passing of the bill, stating, “It is great to see Minnesota and other states step in to protect workers in warehouses like Amazon’s. It is shameful that in 2023 we are still fighting to ensure that workers are allowed to take breaks on the job but this is the reality of Amazon and others like it, where workers are subjected to abusive practices driven by algorithmic management, excessive surveillance and harmful productivity expectations. These workers need a union!”
The legislation is expected to be signed into law by Minnesota’s governor in the coming weeks.
UNI Amazon Global Union Alliance