We often assume that employers protect their workers, providing them with safe working conditions and an environment in which their physical and mental health are not at risk. But we discover that is not always the case.
Consider what is happening in Minnesota, where state lawmakers introduced legislation geared toward addressing issues faced by warehouse workers – namely those who work at Amazon, whose workers are more than twice as likely to sustain on-the-job injuries compared with similar employees in other industries.
Protecting and empowering warehouse workers
Known as House File 2774, the bill – introduced on Feb. 10 – is meant to protect and empower warehouse workers, while providing increased scrutiny on employers such as Amazon, which has a growing presence in Minnesota.
State lawmakers took notice after the findings of a December report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP). The report confirmed the stories of Minnesota Amazon workers who noted that the relentless working pace and poor working conditions led to frequent injuries.
NELP cited Amazon’s own numbers that more than 11.1 injuries per 100 full-time warehouse workers took place each year at its facilities from 2018 to 2020. That is an injury rate of more than twice that of workers at non-Amazon warehouses, which reported 5.2 injuries per 100 workers during that same three-year period.
An Amazon facility in Shakopee – a southwest suburb of Minneapolis – had a 2020 injury rate higher than any other Minnesota industry, according to NELP.
Clearly defined quotas
The bill that focuses on warehouse distribution worker safety includes:
- Clearly defined productivity quotas for workers along with the consequences they face should they not meet them.
- The provision of two days’ advance notice by employers as to whether those quotas have changed.
- Workers allowed to seek information gathered by them to track their performance.
- Preventing warehouse employers from punishing workers for not meeting quotas when not considering legally allowed breaks.
- The requirement that the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry investigate any company whenever its warehouse injury rate tops the industry average of more than 30%.
Perhaps this development in Minnesota may lead to other states pursuing similar legislation.
Advocate for yourself
We learn the hard truth that warehouse workers often are rushed and under stress to fulfill orders and meet unrealistic quotas, placing their own safety in jeopardy and preventing them from earning a living. The warehouse industry likely is not the only place where such abuse occurs. As a worker, please understand that self-advocacy often serves as the springboard to additional action.