California initiates additional protections for warehouse workers
In an age when online shopping is increasingly popular, warehouse workers are in great demand. Yesenia Barrera’s first warehouse job was at Amazon.
“You had to respond to 100 items every hour, and you had to have at least 200 items by the second hour, which is before your break, so you had to take a break every two hours,” Barrera said.
She was a 19-year-old single mother and said she would have a high salary and flexible hours. However, she says she was under constant supervision and that the job was more stressful than she had imagined. Once, as the boxes piled up, she said she accidentally hit herself with her scanner gun.
“It was in my right eye. I was a little stunned, saw black, and stopped scanning. I was just there for a few minutes. You know my face was throbbing a little bit because it’s a pretty big sweep gun. And that’s when my manager came in, and she said, ‘Oh, what’s going on here? Like, why did you stop scanning? ‘ “
When she was not scanning, it was considered a “leave job”. Barrera once said when she used the bathroom several times outside of her breaks; they fired her the next working day.
“I didn’t even have human interaction when they fired me,” Barrera said. “I never even got a call. I never even got an email. I just went to my next scheduled shift and my badge didn’t work.
The law – which is the first of its kind in the country – will establish transparency measures for companies to disclose descriptions of production quotas to their workers and ensure that workers cannot be fired for failing to meet a dangerous quota.
In a statement, Governor Newsom said, “We cannot allow companies to put profit before people. The hardworking warehouse workers who helped support us during this unprecedented time should not have to risk injury or be punished because of operating quotas that violate basic health and safety. “
Warehouse workers see this as a big win, but California Retailers Association President Rachel Michelin says the legislation is of concern as it opens up warehouses and distribution centers to prosecution.
“A lot of companies will spend millions of dollars defending themselves, even if they’re right, and they’ll end up settling because it’s cheaper than going to court,” Michelin said. “And those costs are passed on to consumers.”
Michelin says it is also concerned that excessive regulation will force these industries out of California, which cuts well-paying jobs. She argues that companies can invest in their employees without government intervention.
Workers at construction manufacturing company RK Mechanical Industries say they are thrilled with the work culture there. Reception supervisor Hannah Courkamp says she quit a job at Amazon to work at RK.
“Everyday life is really a lot of fun,” Courkamp said. “We have a very good working environment here. Our core values are Safety, Mentoring, Accountability, Relationships and Teamwork, and so every day we live these core values. “
The Colorado-based company has become a national leader in mental health wellness – it reaches out to its employees every morning to talk about things like raising awareness about suicide or maintaining a great work-life balance. Courkamp says she enjoys the daily reminder of a sign when she leaves work.
“There is always more than just mundane work because we have people to come home with and people who care about us,” Courkamp said.
Barrera says she has had positive experiences in other warehouses as well. However, she believes California law should control large retailers and prevent other retailers from following the same model.
We have contacted Amazon several times to discuss Yesenia’s case and the bill, but we did not hear back from the company before the deadline.
Barrera and Courkamp both say that instead of being a number, they want to be part of a community.