New legislation to protect warehouse workers

ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — With new warehouses being built all across New York, a new proposal to protect workers from on-the-job injuries and what they call harsh working conditions. It would limit the algorithms and quotas companies like Amazon use that set the pace for their employees.  

“Pressuring them to work faster, pressuring them to work harder and so what we’re looking to do with the Warehouse Worker Protection Act is really create a sense of accountability with those algorithms and make sure that there are humane practices going on in these warehouses,” said Senator Jessica Ramos who is a sponsor of this bill. She says, the algorithms are downright dangerous.

The president of Amazon Labor Union, Chris Smalls agrees. Smalls was an Amazon employee for five years and opened multiple buildings for the company. He says he told workers to cancel their gym memberships. With Amazon warehouses being the size of 14 NFL football fields he says, the amount of wear and tear on their bodies was a workout in itself. 

“You’re walking all day, you’re pulling, you’re reaching you’re doing ten to twelve hours of calisthenics. You only have about a thirty to forty five minute lunch, and this building will break your body down over time so if you don’t prepare yourself physically and mentally you don’t last long,” said Smalls.

Another sponsor of the bill, Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner says these employees have experienced even harsher working conditions since the pandemic, when online shopping skyrocketed. 

“I’m sure this has been going on for a very long time, but now with the pandemic basically ripping the band aid off you know, now, many people are unafraid to speak up and let people know what’s actually happening behind closed doors,” said Joyner.

According to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employees who work in e-commerce warehouses experience work-related injuries at three times the rate of private industries. 

This legislation mimics a law that was passed in California last year. Lawmakers hope to see it passed before the end of session. I did reach out to Amazon for comment, but am still waiting for their response.

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