California governor, Gavin Newsom, has signed a bill that prevents workers from being laid off because they do not meet a quota that does not include rest breaks.
Amazon employees have complained of gruelling working hours, with harsh penalties for being “off task.” Amazon did not comment on the new law. The final law is due to enter into force in January 2022.
Companies will now have to specify in detail how many tasks they expect warehouse workers to perform in a given timeframe and what sanctions they will have to impose.
The bill also states that an employee is not obliged to meet a quota that prevents compliance with meals or rest periods, the use of toilets or occupational health and safety laws.
Amazon’s algorithms calculate which shift hours are off task, based on the number of items scanned, and penalties for those who fail to perform accordingly.
The system had set off an alarm when employees were unable to work for half an hour, but in June Amazon changed its policy to allow them to receive items scanned on average over a longer period.
At the time of the switch, Dave Clark, vice president of global operations, blogged that the tool “could be easily misunderstood” but was intended to “understand whether there are issues with the tools that people use to be productive,” and secondly to monitor underperforming employees.
One of the biggest criticisms of Amazon is its use of technology, including many robots that dehumanize workers. It uses a range of technologies to keep an eye on employees, such as cameras in vans and an app that monitors driving.
In April, warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, voted for the first time on whether they wanted to be represented by the National Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The vote was against the union allegedly due to Amazon’s anti-union-busting tactics, such as:
- Changing a traffic light system outside the warehouse to provide union representatives less time to leaflet workers
- Bombarding staff with texts, posters and signs encouraging them to vote against unionizing
The National Labour Relations Board found sufficient evidence that Amazon had interfered in the process to recommend a second vote, which will take place shortly.
For more information, read the original story in the BBC.