‘Work Shouldn’t Hurt’: Warehouse workers rally for bill AB 701 to increase warehouse accountability, oversight

Andre M/Creative Commons
People gather at the steps of the California State Capitol in Sacramento. Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO organized a rally to show support for AB 701, a bill created to protect frontline warhouse workers. Photo by Andre M under

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Workers, union members and legislators rallied outside California’s Capitol in Sacramento on Monday, demonstrating their support for bill AB 701, created to protect frontline warehouse workers.

The rally, which was organized by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, or LA Fed, occurred for about 45 minutes, according to Assemblymember Ash Kalra. Yesenia Barrera, an organizer for the Worker Warehouse Resource Center, added that the attendees chanted and held signs that read “Work Shouldn’t Hurt.”

“Every speaker spoke on their support for AB701 and why it was important,” Barrera said in an email. “It financially affects them and their families after they lose their job from injury or not being as productive as their monitoring system wants them to be.”

If passed, the bill would require employers to disclose specific quotas and work speed expectations to their workers.

Additionally, they must disclose any adverse action that could be taken against the employee should they fail to meet those expectations.

“This policy provides the tools that are needed to keep workers safe in a growing industry plagued with widespread injuries and labor violations,” said LA Fed President Ron Herrera in a LA Fed press release. “We are unified in this fight to ensure that the wealthiest retailers on the planet are held accountable to the warehouse workers who power our economy.”

The bill also prevents employers from enacting quotas that violate occupational health and safety laws or impede access to bathrooms or meal breaks.

Kalra added that working conditions in warehouses had come under scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic as companies saw an uptick in doorstep delivery requests.

“More and more people are relying on delivery services and the reality is that it doesn’t come out of thin air,” Kalra said. “It comes out of warehouses that are more and more treating workers as commodities and maximizing them for profit without concern for their injuries or wellbeing.”

Kalra added that the bill was necessary to hold large shipping companies such as Amazon and Walmart accountable for their working conditions.

However, opponents of the bill cite its vagueness, claiming that existing laws are enough to produce the intended results. Luis Portillo, director of public policy for the Inland Empire Chamber Alliance, claimed that the bill is “looking for a problem to address.”

“We understand the underlying intent, but the way the bill is written makes warehouses unworkable,” Portillo said. “My employer doesn’t know what I’m going to be doing a week from now, let alone six months from now, and that kind of ambiguity is going to open up employers for litigation.”

According to Barrera, the Warehouse Worker Resource Center will be part of a people’s council to discuss worker exploitation and industry reform at the San Bernardino State Capitol on Tuesday.

Contact Kavya Gupta at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @kavyaguptta.