New York Teamsters are letting state lawmakers know they support two key pieces of legislation that would hold Amazon accountable – one defending worker safety in the e-commerce and warehouse industries and another protecting workers, small businesses and consumers from corporate abuses.
All three Joint Councils in New York State sent letters to legislators urging passage of the measures, while Teamsters from multiple Joint Councils turned out for a lobby day event in Albany on Tuesday where members let elected officials know that the actions of Amazon and other bad actors must be reined in.
Joint Councils 16, 18 and 46, in backing the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, said the bill would set a national standard for protecting workers in the growing industry. It shields workers from discipline or termination based on unfair and secret quotas; creates an injury reduction plan at all large warehouses to protect workers from injuries that result from repetitive movements and unsafe practices; and empowers the New York State Department of Labor to more effectively enforce worker safety regulations.
“Amazon’s growth in New York is endangering workers,” the Joint Councils wrote. “Amazon’s first facility in New York opened in 2014. Just eight years later, there are 78 facilities in the state. The rate of serious injuries at Amazon warehouses in New York was six incidents per 100 full time employees, 50 percent higher than New York’s warehouse industry overall.”
The Teamsters Union supported similar legislation on quotas that was passed in California last year. Other states, like Minnesota, are also advancing bills based on the California law. New York can strengthen this movement by passing this best-in-the-nation bill this session, the Joint Councils stated.
Meanwhile, Teamsters in the Empire State are also coming together to strongly support the Twenty-First Century Antitrust Act. The measure would update New York’s antitrust laws to give the state Attorney General and workers themselves the power to hold bad actors accountable. It also addresses the impacts that corporate concentration has on consumers, small businesses and workers.
Among other things, it creates an “abuse of dominance standard” which lowers the unreasonably high threshold under current law for showing a firm has monopoly power; includes language addressing the impact of labor market dominance on workers by barring dominant employers from using their outsized influence to the detriment of workers; and allows the state Attorney General to scrutinize potential harmful consolidation deals, including merger impacts on labor markets.
“Amazon has quickly become a dominant employer and has used that position to lower standards for the entire industry,” New York Teamsters wrote. “Amazon has undercut good jobs by paying half the union rate and lengthening the workweek. When a company is this big, and it is non-union, then the employer can dictate wages and working conditions unilaterally for its own workers, and those bad conditions trickle down to the rest of the industry as well.”
Rallying Against Amazon
Teamsters let lawmakers know about their support for the bills during a visit to the New York Capitol this week, where they joined members of New Yorkers for a Fair Economy for two separate press conferences – one for each measure. They also met with Assembly and Senate members and asked them to back both pieces of legislation.
Local 804 member Antoine Andrews, a UPS driver who attended the event, said the whole day really opened his eyes to how the process works. He said Teamsters got a good reception from elected officials everywhere they went, but Andrews got the greatest feedback from two senators whom he believed were on the fence.
“They were pretty surprised about the stories we told,” Andrews said, noting the descriptions they gave about the heavy toll of warehouse work raised eyebrows. “Companies like Amazon put profits over workers and we are speaking up against that.”