United States

California governor signs legislation to protect warehouse workers

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California Governor Gavin Newsom makes an appearance after the polls close on the recall election, at the California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, California, U.S., September 14, 2021. REUTERS/Fred Greaves

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Sept 22 (Reuters) - California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed a bill that limits warehouse employers like Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) from setting productivity quotas, the first legislation of its kind in the United States.

The new provisions require all companies using warehouse labour to disclose productivity quotas to employees and government agencies and bar use of algorithms that prevent employees from taking rests and bathroom breaks, thereby endangering their health and safety, the governor's office said.

The California State Senate this month approved the bill in a 26-11 vote.

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"We cannot allow corporations to put profit over people," Newsom said in a statement, signing the measure into law.

"The legislation ensures workers cannot be fired or retaliated against for failing to meet an unsafe quota."

While Newsom's office did not single out any company in the statement, the New York Times reported that the bill was written partly in response to high rates of injuries at Amazon warehouses.

The rate at which Amazon workers suffer serious injuries was nearly double that of the rest of the warehousing industry last year, the newspaper reported, citing studies.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The hardworking warehouse employees who have helped sustain us during these unprecedented times should not have to risk injury or face punishment as a result of exploitative quotas that violate basic health and safety," Newsom said.

The California Retailers Association expressed disappointment that Newsom signed the bill, saying it "will exacerbate our current supply chain issues, increase the cost of living for all Californians and eliminate good-paying jobs".

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Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel

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