Watch Now

New York governor signs warehouse worker protection bill into law

Bill requires employers to put work requirements in writing, offers additional protection to employees

The Warehouse Worker Protection Act is designed to provide transparency and worker protections to warehouse workers in the state of New York, which has seen several skirmishes over working conditions at Amazon facilities. (Photo: Amazon)

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday signed legislation that proponents say will improve safety and accountability within warehouses in the state.

Modeled after a similar measure in California, the Warehouse Worker Protection Act (S. 8922/A. 10020) “will protect warehouse distribution workers from undisclosed or unlawful work speed quotas, and includes protections for workers who fail to meet unlawful quotas,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“Every worker in New York State deserves to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect,” Hochul said. “As we celebrate the holidays with gifts and packages, I’m proud to sign the Warehouse Worker Protection Act into law to expand protections for hardworking warehouse employees.”

Passed by both chambers of the Legislature this summer, WWPA will require operators of warehouses in the state to disclose working conditions.

“The WWPA would require, among other things, that employees be provided with a written description of any work-related ‘quota’ required by the employer, along with specific details regarding the metrics and timing of any such quota, and the associated consequences for failing to meet any such quota,” states an analysis of the bill by attorneys Michael Paglialonga and Paul Piccigallo at the law firm of Littler.

The attorneys added that an “employer’s required written description of any quotas must be provided to employees upon hire or within 30 days of the WWPA’s effective date, and within two business days of any quota changes.”

Employers would face additional record-keeping requirements, including each employee’s “own personal work speed data” and the aggregated work speed for similar employees.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents 100,000 members throughout the United States and is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, was pleased with bill, which will go into effect in 60 days.

“Regulations protecting workers in the warehousing industry have lagged far behind its rapid growth until today,” the union said. “The RWDSU has long prioritized the challenge of protecting warehouse workers from stress induced injuries and illness from limitless quotas and it’s why we pushed for the introduction of the Warehouse Worker Protection Act this year.”

The legislation was sponsored by New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner.

“By bringing the Warehouse Worker Protection Act across the finish line, we have made sure that corporations like Amazon and UPS can’t wring all the profits they can out of their employees, leaving the workers to deal with their injuries,” Ramos said in a statement. “Every warehouse worker has a community relying on them, relying on their ability to come home from work whole.”

Warehouse work, particularly at Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) facilities in New York, has been under scrutiny in 2022. Workers at a Staten Island warehouse in April voted to form a union. Workers at the facility were concerned about Amazon’s alleged lack of transparency over warehouse conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic and its failure to provide protective gear to workers.

A second unionization attempt near Albany, though, failed, with workers rejecting the effort. There have been two other efforts to organize Amazon facilities in New York, but both have failed.

Federal prosecutors from the Department of Labor and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York launched an investigation in July into potentially unsafe working conditions at Amazon warehouses in New York City, Chicago and Orlando, Florida, an district spokesman said.

According to New York office spokesman Nicholas Biase, the hazards relate to Amazon’s “required pace of work for its warehouse employees.” The company’s productivity standards are well documented. An automated system records the number of packages workers pick and pack per hour — if a worker takes a break for too long, the system flags it as “time off task.”

In November, an Eastern District of New York judge ordered Amazon to stop firing warehouse workers involved in union organizing activities.

In the filing, District Judge Diane Gujarati demanded that the e-commerce giant cease and desist from “discharging employees because they engaged in protected concerted activity” and “in any like or related manner interfering with, restraining or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed to them by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.”

The signing of the Warehouse Worker Protection Act by Hochul is a step toward providing warehouse workers protection, says the RWDSU. 

“Warehouse facilities are popping up across New York at staggering numbers; Amazon alone has opened more than 70 facilities in the state and over half of those facilities have been built since January 2021. At the same time, we have seen increased stress, pain, and resulting safety issues for warehouse workers, due to increased quotas and speeds,” the RWDSU said. “Due to extreme, unknown and unreasonable work quotas warehouse workers have suffered heart attacks, strokes, repetitive motion injuries, and irreparable life-long joint and back pain. At Amazon, the injury rate is 54% higher than the average rate for the state’s warehousing industry — and even that is a staggering misrepresentation of the reality given how many injuries at Amazon go unreported.”

One Comment

  1. Stephen Webster

    We need to make sure all workers in or near new york city have medical and safe working conditions. This also needs to apply to all drivers including those here on work permits

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]