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New York’s new warehouse worker laws target Amazon

New York’s new warehouse worker laws target Amazon

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Image for the article titled New York's New Warehouse Worker Law takes aim at Amazon's dystopian productivity metric

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Amazon warehouse workers in New York may finally get a legal reprieve from the company’s allegedly soul-crushing AI-assisted production quotas. Those rates were partly responsible for the harrowing reports last year from Amazon employees who admitted they felt pressured to pee on bottles to avoid a hit to performance.

On Wednesday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Warehouse Worker Protections Act, which protects warehouse workers from disciplinary action or dismissal if they fail to meet undisclosed quotas or for quotas that do not allow time for statutory meal and bathroom breaks. Employers are required to disclose and cap productivity rates and provide their employees with records detailing their productivity expectations. It is unclear why these were not already requirements.

New York law written with Entry Amazon’s first union, takes inspiration from a similar, unique California law that was passed last year. Though the legislation reportedly applies to organizations with 50 employees in a single warehouse or 500 employees statewide, the law really has its sights set on Amazon, which has seen a staggering rise in workplace injuries that some crickets blame on inflated quotas.

“The Warehouse Worker Protection Act enacts important workplace safety measures and removes incentives for e-commerce giants like Amazon to engage in unsafe workplace practices,” New York Assembly member Latoya Joyner said in a statement. “This legislation brings much-needed transparency into the use of onerous quotas and improves worker protections. I really appreciate that Governor Hochul signed the law into law.”

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Big unions like the Teamsters also welcomed the law, which they said was necessary to combat new threats posed by Amazon’s rapid growth.

“This is a real victory in our ongoing fight for rights and collective bargaining for all warehouse workers so they have a voice at work and can protect themselves,” said Thomas Gesuald, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16.

In an email, Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel told Gizmodo that while the company agrees with the state’s target, it believes the legislation was based “on a misunderstanding” of Amazon’s key performance indicators.

“Amazon does not have fixed quotas in our facilities. Instead, we evaluate performance based on safe and achievable expectations, and consider time and tenure, peer performance, and adherence to safe work practices,” said Nantel. “While we know we’re not perfect, we’re committed to continuous improvement when it comes to communicating with our people, listening to them, and providing them with the resources they need to succeed.”

Notwithstanding, the new legislation could face Amazon’s so-called “time off” performance metric. Critical Amazon workers claim these extreme levels are responsible for workers skipping breaks and sustaining injuries. Leaked documents from The Verge revealed that Amazon used AI models to track employee productivity rates and then fired employees who weren’t up to speed. After public backlash, Amazon announced changes to this metric to average its productivity measurements over time.

The new laws come just months after the Department of Labor and the federal attorney’s office in New York’s Southern District opened an investigation into workplace safety and hazards at Amazon warehouses.

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