The Minnesota House passed a bill Monday that would improve safety protections for workers at Minnesota warehouses, including Amazon facilities.
The bill, which passed on a 69-60 vote, would ensure that employees receive breaks during the workday, and have access to data about how fast they work, among other measures.
“We are listening to warehouse workers and acting to protect workers now, and to ensure that their dangerous, high-tech model does not spread to other warehouses and other industries where it could injure more Minnesotans,” bill author Representative Emma Greenman (DFL–Minneapolis) said in a news release about the vote. “Passing this bill is a necessary step towards ensuring all Minnesotans are safe in the workplace.”
According to a news release from the Minnesota House: Employers with 100 or more employees at one warehouse distribution center or 1,000 or more employees at one or more warehouse distribution centers would be affected by the bill, which now goes to the Senate for a vote.
The bill also requires such corporations to give their workers written notice of the quotas and standards expected of them, and to explain how performance is measured. The information must be shared in the worker’s preferred language.
The performance information must be shared with employees when they are hired, and again two days before any modifications to the performance standards take effect.
“The bill stipulates that employers can’t fire or take disciplinary action against a worker who fails to meet a quota that wasn’t disclosed,” the news release said.
Workers at a number of local Amazon facilities, led by staff of East African heritage, have publicly demanded pay raises while criticizing the company for quotas and workplace conditions. Workers have also said the company refused to give Muslim employees time off to celebrate the Islamic holiday Eid al-Fitr.
Workers at local Amazon facilities have staged several walkouts and rallies around workplace conditions.
The Awood Center, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that has helped organize local Amazon workers, has been pushing and advocating for the bill for two years.
In a statement they shared their excitement following the Minnesota House passing the Warehouse Safety Bill.
Hali Aden, a Amazon worker and leader with the Awood Center, praised the bill in a release by Awood calling the passage a huge step towards a critical win for working families across the state.
“This is a big step for warehouse workers in Minnesota. I’m so glad the legislators listened to us workers who demanded this bill to make sure we can all get home safely from work,” Aden said.
The bill would give workers access to their personal “work speed data,” according to the House news release. The latest 90 days of data would be available to workers in their preferred language. That information must also be shared with workers who are disciplined or fired for failing to meet a quota.
“All Minnesotans deserve to be safe and respected at work, no matter where they work, who they work for, or what their background is,” Greenman said. “But for far too many Minnesotans working in Amazon warehouses under their systems of surveillance and discipline—it does. These companies have failed to live up to their promise to provide our state with safe and reliable jobs.”
The bill also seeks to ensure breaks and prevent the abuse of quota systems.
“Under this legislation, employers cannot require workers to meet quotas that prevent them from taking required breaks for meals, restroom breaks, or prayer,” the news release said. “Quotas also can’t prevent compliance with state OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards.”
The legislation compels the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry to open an investigation into warehouses with an annual injury rate 30 percent higher than the average rate for Minnesota’s warehouse industry.