Somali laborers in America combatting the all-encompassing Amazon monitoring apparatus with fervor and sudden outbursts of resistance.
Wow, hold onto your hats because this news is sure to shock and amaze you! On Thursday, May 18, 2023, we learned that Minnesota passed a labor bill that could actually force Amazon to respect the rights of warehouse workers. Can you believe it? The e-commerce giant’s rapid-fire delivery model may be seriously impacted by this new legislation.
Believe it or not, Amazon’s success relies heavily on what goes on inside the company’s “fulfillment centers.” There, workers sort and pack orders for shipment, all under the watchful eye of technical systems that track their every move. But here’s the kicker – workers have claimed for years that the company’s algorithm-driven approach treats them “like robots,” pushing them to the brink and driving up injuries in the process.
A recent survey of more than 2,000 Amazon workers across eight countries found that the company’s performance monitoring and tracking system has taken a physical and emotional toll on employees’ well-being. Despite this, Amazon has twice the injury rate of comparable warehouses in the U.S. It’s all rather perplexing and hard to comprehend, isn’t it?
But that’s not all! Minnesota lawmakers passed a pioneering workplace safety bill on May 16, 2023, which could improve labor conditions for Amazon employees subject to the company’s worker tracking system. The policy will apply to any warehouse with more than 250 employees and will require those employers to provide workers with the quotas and work speed metrics used to evaluate their performance. The law also requires this information be communicated in employees’ preferred language.
What’s truly amazing about this new legislation is that it also prohibits corporations from imposing quotas on workers that prevent them from taking breaks, including bathroom, food, rest, and prayer breaks! This is sure to increase transparency and promote better working conditions for Amazon employees.
Organizers behind the legislation say it will provide the strongest labor protections in the nation for people working in warehouses like Amazon’s. Workers from East Africa, including refugees from Somalia, have been at the helm of organizing efforts in Minnesota. They were the first in the country to take on Amazon’s labor practices in 2018, when a cohort of workers in the Minneapolis area staged a walkout over working conditions at local warehouses.
The saga continues, as Amazon’s “time off task” measurement is a constant source of concern for workers. The company tracks the time employees are gone from their workstations and Internal company documents obtained by VICE reveal that Amazon can fire employees who accumulate 30 minutes of “time off task” on three separate days over the course of a year. The documents also showed that the company tracks the amount of time employees spend in the bathroom. Some employees have described needing to urinate in bottles while working to avoid penalties for using the bathroom. This is all simply baffling, isn’t it?
Needless to say, this is a major turning point for America’s labor force and for Amazon’s future. Only time will tell what this new legislation will do for Amazon’s employees and customers, but we can say for certain that this is news we’ll be talking about for some time to come.