The Potluck

Minnesota House passes bill aimed at Amazon worker safety; unlikely to pass Senate

By: - March 28, 2022 9:00 pm

Amazon employees hold a protest and walkout over conditions at the company’s Staten Island distribution facility on March 30, 2020 in New York City. Workers at many facilities across the country have protested conditions, as employees tested positive for the coronavirus. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The Minnesota House passed a bill Monday on a nearly party line vote (72-60) that aims to protect warehouse workers at companies like Amazon from escalating rates of workplace illness and injury.

The Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to consider the measure (HF2774).

Still, the bill’s House passage illustrates — if only symbolically for now — the rapidly changing political environment for both newly empowered workers and Amazon. The company faces increasingly harsh scrutiny after the online behemoth was courted by Democratic politicians less than a decade ago.

The House bill, which would apply to companies with 250 or more employees at one warehouse distribution center, would require companies to notify workers of any quota such as packing a certain number boxes per shift. Workers could ask for their work speed, and the employer would have to hand it over.

The bill would also prohibit any quota that interferes with a required meal, rest, restroom break or prayer period, or that prevents compliance with other workplace safety laws. And, if a facility experienced injury and illness rates 30% above average, the proposed law would trigger an investigation by the Department of Labor and Industry.

Rep. Emma Greenman, DFL-Minneapolis, who authored the bill, said she and her colleagues “are listening to warehouse workers and acting to protect the Amazon workers now, and to ensure that their dangerous, high-tech model does not spread to other warehouses and other industries where it could injure more Minnesotans.”

The pandemic has raised the profile of Amazon workers, tens of thousands of whom were sickened as they worked and ate and rested near their coworkers in warehouses like the company’s distribution center in Shakopee.

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children