St. Louis Amazon worker speaks at D.C. press conference announcing new legislation to protect warehouse workers

WENDY TAYLOR, STL8 organizing committee member, joined Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) to introduce a bill requiring employer quota transparency, limiting surveillance, and preventing quotas from infringing on workers’ rights to organize. – Photo courtesy of Sen. Ed Markey

Washington – Amazon STL8 fulfillment center worker Wendy Taylor recently stood with U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) to introduce the Warehouse Worker Protection Act.

The measure, if passed, would protect all warehouse workers, drivers, subcontractors, and “temp” workers by requiring quota transparency, limiting surveillance, and securing worker rights to organize. The federal bill builds on statewide legislation that workers have fought to pass in New York, California, and Minnesota and is the result of years of worker organizing at the Amazon STL8 warehouse in St. Peters, Missouri.

“Last March, I was injured at Amazon. Because of the exhausting pace and the physical work me and my coworkers do, I tripped and fell flat on my face over a misplaced pallet. Disoriented, with a busted lip and a throbbing knee I could barely stand on, I went to AmCare, the company’s medical clinic. They refused to send me to a doctor when I asked, sending me back to my job. My own doctor later confirmed I’d torn my meniscus,” said Taylor, STL8 warehouse worker and organizing committee member, who traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak in support of the legislation at the press conference introducing the measure.

“Amazon workers provide the world with same-day shipping, but as workers we can’t even get same-day quality healthcare from the company when we’re seriously injured on the job,” Taylor said. “Congress must pass the Warehouse Worker Protection Act or else thousands more workers will face unnecessary injuries, disability, and death from a company with more than enough resources to prevent them.”

Earlier this year, following a complaint that Taylor and several other organizing committee members filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency cited Amazon STL8 five times for its failure to report injuries.

Organizing among workers at STL8 and across the country also led the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to launch an investigation last year into the company’s harrowing warehouse working conditions. As part of that ongoing investigation, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-VT) requested data on conditions at the STL8 Amazon facility in St. Peters.

While Amazon claims that “safety is a priority” for the corporation, federal enforcement agencies have repeatedly concluded that Amazon’s self-reported injury data is not to be trusted.

In fact, a new report out from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) highlights Amazon’s outsized role in the warehouse injury crisis: Despite Amazon Founder and Chairman Jeff Bezos’ public commitment to make Amazon “Earth’s Safest Place to Work,” the serious injury rate at Amazon warehouses in 2021 was more than twice as high as the rate at non-Amazon warehouses across the country.

These unsafe conditions are preventable, and are a direct result of Amazon’s punitive management practices that use constant surveillance and threat of termination to push workers to the breaking point; the company’s use of union busting that intimidates workers who advocate for safer conditions; and the high turnover model that prioritizes profit over safety, even during natural disasters and extreme weather.

The Warehouse Worker Protection Act, when enforced, will require employers to provide transparency and advance notice about quotas and potential disciplinary consequences, restrict practices that punish workers for failing to meet quotas, prohibit intrusive surveillance measures, enshrine worker rights to their own data, prohibit quotas from infringing on other workplace rights, and establish meaningful enforcement mechanisms.

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