Amazon associates sorting packages at the SAN3 fulfillment center in Otay Mesa. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Wednesday that limits California warehouse employers like Amazon from setting unsafe productivity quotas, the first legislation of its kind in the United States.

The new provisions require all companies using warehouse labor 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.

Assembly Bill 701 was approved by a 26-11 vote in the state Senate and a 52-19 margin in the Assembly .

“We cannot allow corporations to put profit over people,” Newsom said in a statement after 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, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, who sponsored the bill, cited Amazon as an example of a company that sets “dangerous quotas.”

“Amazon’s business model relies on enforcing inhumane work speeds that are injuring and churning through workers at a faster rate than we’ve ever seen. Workers aren’t machines. We’re not going to allow a corporation that puts profits over workers’ bodies to set labor standards back decades just for ‘same-day delivery’,” the San Diego Democrat said in a statement.

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 AB 701, saying it “will exacerbate our current supply chain issues, increase the cost of living for all Californians and eliminate good-paying jobs”.

The governor’s signature on the legislation came just days after Amazon opened California’s largest fulfillment center in Otay Mesa, hiring 1,500 workers at a starting wage of $15 per hour.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.