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Teamsters Back Wash. State Warehouse Bill, Citing Safety Issues and Working Conditions at Amazon


The Legislation Would Prohibit Dangerous Quotas That Prevent Workers From Taking Breaks and Lead to High Injury Rates

(Olympia, WA) – Warehouse workers and members of Teamsters Local 117 and Local 174 in Washington testified Thursday before the Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee to voice their support for SB 5891. The bill introduced by Sen. Steve Conway would crack down on the abusive quota system used by Amazon and other warehouse employers, which forces employees to work at unreasonable rates, prevents them from taking breaks and leads to high rates of injury

“We’ve reached the tipping point of exploitation in this industry, and people are beginning to pay attention to what the labor movement has been saying for years —  that lawmakers need to step up and get a handle on how these companies are treating their constituents,” said John Mataya, State Legislative Director for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, during his testimony.

The law would apply to warehouse employers with 100 or more employees at a single warehouse distribution center or 1,000 or more total employees at distribution centers in the state. In addition to requiring that businesses be transparent about quotas with safety regulators and employees, the bill would require businesses to have safety committees made up of employees meet at least quarterly and that the employers pay workers for the time they spend in those meetings.

“If you are tired, or sick, or make mistakes, you can miss hitting your numbers. People that need to make up that time will skip a break, or go to lunch late. These kinds of pressures are real for all of us even though we have a strong union and a process for disputing mistakes. Other warehouse workers don’t have any of these guarantees,” said Will Buff, Teamsters Local 117 member and employee of Sysco, in his testimony.

Rick Hicks, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 174 said, “the demand spike from the COVID-19 pandemic has placed massive pressure on warehouse workers to maintain inventory and efficiently distribute goods to citizens. With pressure often comes declining working conditions, overworked members, ill-equipped safety protocols and growing workplace incidents. Dominant players like Amazon are large enough to evade accountability. Without robust enforceable protections, we will continue to see high workplace injuries and incidents, high turnover rates and a decline in sustainable productivity. Beyond pragmatic and health reasons, there is also the need to treat all workers with respect and dignity.” 

In Washington, the State Department of Labor and Industries found that workers’ compensation claims increased nearly three-fold at Amazon fulfillment centers from 2014 to 2018, while claims at all other warehouses have “trended steadily downward” in the past several years.

“SB-5891 will ensure that breaks, lunches, necessary travel time, and safety protocol are figured into quotas, allowing employees to work safely, and with dignity,” testified John Scearcy, Principal Officer of Teamsters Local 117.

The high rate of workplace injuries at Amazon warehouses nationally has spurred a wave of legislation aimed at protecting workers. In September, California became the first state to sign a bill similar to SB-5891 into law, AB-701. Bills targeting Amazon’s dangerous quota system have also been introduced in New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Minnesota. 

“Warehouse work is hard work. It’s physically and mentally demanding. Maintaining focus while you operate your forklift, navigate aisles, and avoid interfering with other order selectors requires focus,” testified Matt Collins, Teamsters Local 117 member and employee at a Fred Meyer distribution facility. “At the end of every day I know exactly what I need to do to maintain my standard, and my employment. I also know that my union can audit my standard to ensure it is safe, and accurate. Not every warehouse worker has this option.”

“Amazon has gotten away with systematically exploiting its employees for too long,” said Randy Korgan, Teamsters National Director for Amazon. “Despite the wave of news coverage around the horrific working conditions in its warehouses and skyrocketing injury rates, Amazon, as well as other companies, continue to push inhumane quotas on workers and neglect to implement proper safety protocols in their operations. It is up to legislators to hold Amazon accountable and pass legislation as a stepping stone, like SB-5891, to ensure workers are treated like people and not robots. California and now Washington have taken a step in the right direction to defend workers, and we hope to see more legislation like SB-5891 implemented nationwide. Ultimately, a unionized workforce in these types of warehouse operations are not subjected to unattainable quotas and therefore have long careers.” 

Thursday’s testimonies come after the Teamsters passed a historic resolution at their national convention in June, committing members and all levels of the union to address the existential threat of Amazon to all workers in the logistics industry.

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at