California’s newest labor law is going to change the way major retail outlets such as Amazon manage their massive warehouses.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 701, which supporters said will give warehouse workers protection from having rest periods and bathroom breaks limited because of production quotas.
The bill, which Newsom signed Wednesday, will require warehouse operations, most notably at retail giant Amazon, to disclose any production quota requirements to workers and ensure workers are given breaks and adequate time to use the restroom even if the quotas would prevent them.
Companies no longer can fire an employee for not meeting production quotas under the new law.
“We cannot allow corporations to put profit over people,” Newsom said in a statement. “The hardworking warehouse employees who have helped sustain us during these unprecedented times should not have to risk injury or face punishment as a result of exploitative quotas that violate basic health and safety.”
Businesses must give the California Labor Commissioner data on their employee quotas upon request under AB 701. The commissioner then could fine the businesses based on the data.
The bill also allows warehouse workers to file private lawsuits against the employer if they wish.
“Amazon’s business model relies on enforcing inhumane work speeds that are injuring and churning through workers at a faster rate than we’ve ever seen,” Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, said. “Workers aren’t machines. We’re not going to allow a corporation that puts profits over workers’ bodies to set labor standards back decades just for ‘same-day delivery.’ This bill is simply about giving workers some basic dignity back and empowering them to keep themselves safe. ”
Gonzalez also was the author of a controversial 2019 law that required gig workers such as Uber drivers to be classified as full-time employees who require benefits and paid leave.
Opponents of AB 701 warn it’s only going to make the current logistics issues on the west coast worse.
“We are disappointed Governor Newsom signed AB 701, which will exacerbate our current supply chain issues, increase the cost of living for all Californians and eliminate good-paying jobs,” said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association and chair of the No on AB 701 coalition. “With California’s ports facing record backlogs of ships waiting off the coast and inflation spiking to the fastest pace in 13 years, AB 701 will make matters worse for everyone – creating more back-ordered goods and higher prices for everything from clothes, diapers and food to auto parts, toys and pet supplies.”
Michelin said the law is going to affect the state’s fight against COVID-19.
“Even worse, as the state, employers and families head into the fall and winter months and rely on COVID-19 tests to keep our communities safe, legislation like AB 701 will hamper these efforts by further slowing the movement of COVID-19 tests from warehouses and distribution centers to hospitals, pharmacies and doctors’ offices,” she said.