Two Washington state senators introduced legislation today to limit Amazon's requirements for its warehouse and fulfillment workers, proposing that all warehouse employees in the state be granted new rights to protect themselves from productivity quotas that could interfere with meal and rest breaks. The new bill, SB 5891, takes direct aim at Amazon's productivity metrics without naming Amazon as the target.
Amazon's warehouse workers had the highest injury rates of any of their peers in warehousing and fulfillment in 2020, according to data from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The company has also battled high rates of worker turnover at its warehouses, causing the country's second-largest employer to struggle to fill thousands of open jobs and forcing wage increases and new benefit offerings.
Amazon often measures warehouse worker productivity through a metric called "Time off Task," which some workers say limits their ability to take appropriate and legally-required bathroom, rest and meal breaks. Amazon announced in June 2021 that it would change the way this metric is measured and used after frequent reports that workers were punished or even lost jobs for failing to meet TOT metrics after trying to take their breaks. The company will also face a second union election attempt at its warehouse facility in Bessemer, Alabama in February, after the National Labor Relations Board threw out a sweeping Amazon victory because of its determination that Amazon illegally interfered in the first vote, violating labor laws.
Washington state Senators Steve Conway and Karen Keiser, both Democrats in legislature leadership, co-sponsored the new proposal. The bill proposes that companies be required to state in writing any quotas workers would be subject to, as well as the punishments for failing to meet those quotas, and none of the requirements can interfere with meal or rest breaks. If an employee is accused of failing to meet a quota, they have the right to request the information in writing, including their work and productivity history.
The bill also requires that the state investigate almost all complaints of retaliation and gives workers the right to sue their employers for violating the law.
Amazon and Keiser did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Conway said that a hearing had been scheduled for the bill for Jan. 27 and that it was too soon to predict the bill's likelihood for success.