The DFL-led Minnesota House on Monday passed legislation seeking to rein in work speed quotas at Amazon warehouses, saying such requirements have produced disproportionate injury rates.
"This bill rests on the simple premise that all Minnesotans deserve to be safe and secure at work," said state Rep. Emma Greenman, the Minneapolis Democrat who sponsored the bill.
Greenman's legislation would require warehouse operators with more than 250 workers to give each worker written notice of all quotas they are subject to and how they are measured. Workers cannot be fired or disciplined for failing to meet an undisclosed quota.
Her bill would also task the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry with investigating warehouses with injury rates at least 30% higher than state averages for the industry. Workers could also have access to their work speed data and their employers could not order them to meet quotas that would prevent them from taking breaks for meals or prayer time.
The House voted 72-60 for the bill. Similar legislation in the GOP-controlled Senate hasn't received a hearing.
The House also passed legislation to ratify state worker compensation contracts and a bill requiring businesses to allow workers to earn up to 48 hours of paid time off a year for sickness or caregiving.
House Democrats zeroed in on Amazon as inspiration for Greenman's bill, stating that one of nine Amazon warehouse workers are injured on the job – more than double the rate of non-Amazon warehouses in Minnesota.
Amazon said its employees are free to take bathroom breaks as needed and that it employs more than "8,000 dedicated safety professionals." The company said it now has several prayer areas at its Shakopee location.
"While we know we're not perfect, safety is integral to everything that we do at Amazon and we don't believe this is an accurate description of what it's like inside our buildings," said Steve Kelly, an Amazon spokesperson, adding that the company "invested more than $300 million in safety across the country."
Republican House members objected to the focus on Amazon, criticizing it as too narrow in scope and carrying the potential to impose new challenges on other businesses. Other GOP legislators warned that the new limits could persuade businesses to pursue more automation and lead to fewer jobs.
"This bill seems like it was poorly written and overcritical of a certain industry that will spill over into other industries down the road," said state Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar.